It’s a well-known fact that the Eurovision Song Contest is the cultural high watermark of the year. This is why I spend several hours every year compiling my guide to the performers and their songs - a cheat sheet to steer you through the contest. This year, for the first time, I’m posting the rundown here at its new home, The Post-Game Show - though in this instance it’s pre-game all the way.
Read the rundown; share it with your friends; and leave your comments to let me know who your favourite acts are, and who you think is going to win. But most importantly; enjoy the music. Every year, the ghost of Mozart weeps, for Mozart never lived to submit an entry to Eurovision.
This year’s contest comes from Moscow. You can watch a live stream of the show from 20:00 BST, 15:00 EST, or see videos of any of the songs, at http://www.eurovision.tv/.
Sasha’s biography tells us, “The Lithuanian artist has received many prizes and is responsible for many chart-busters in the country!” It’s true! He has all his achievement badges, and he is very popular in rural areas! The start of this ballad put me in mind of We Are The Champions, but it’s Lithuanian, and Lithuania has never been a champion at anything, so it’s probably We Are The Starving Downtrodden Peasants Living in Abject Poverty, my friends. And we’ll eat potatoes, ’til the end. The lyrics to the chorus are, “If you really love the love you say you love then surely that love would love to love you back”. And the Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
“There Must Be Another Way”
Noa & Mira
Although the title is in English, fooling you into thinking you know where you stand with this cheerful song, the rest of the lyrics are all guttural throat-clearing sounds. Possibly Klingon. Trek is so big right now. And that one girl definitely has some proper Klingon hair. In fact, the other girl could pass for Bajoran, so maybe this is a Federation peace song. There must be another way to unite the planets! Fire up the warp nacelles and drop the power core into the sun! (I suppose it might also be a song about peace in the Middle East, but there will never be peace in the Middle East so long as the Vulcans are without a homeland.)
“Et S’il Fallait Le Faire”
Last year, France boldly opted out of competing in Eurovision, while simultaneously continuing to participate. That is to say, knowing they weren’t going to win, they put forward a musically credible act with a decent song, and offered audiences a three minute respite from the madness (with a different flavour of madness - Sébastien Tellier certainly was not sane). It looks like they are doing it again this year, with jazz singer Patricia Kaas singing an earnest Berlin cabaret torch song. It’s rather good, and thus stands out like a sore thumb.
Though born a human ‘woman’, Malena looks and sounds like a weird hybrid of drag act and alien, and her wide glazed eyes look like they were painted on to her eyelids. Her song would be equally at home opening a retro sci-fi TV show or as the theme for the BBC coverage of the European Cup. It has a lot of wailing - and with wailing comes solicitous dancing waiters waving their arms about. Highly camp, and therefore somewhat charming.
Igor Cukrov featuring Andrea
This starts out sounding promisingly like “Something Stupid”, and the cross-eyed young male singer does seem to fit that description (though I confess a personal weakness for young men named Igor. The hunchback thing is such a myth). This song is not in English, and I’m not sure it’s in Croatian either. I’m having trouble distinguishing much in the way of words at all. It’s 99% yodel. That is considered well above the international standard for yodelling, so unless they have special dispensation, they may find themselves dragged off to a Russian gulag to build tractors for the farming collectives.
“Todas As Ruas Do Amor”
Here’s a bright and breezy little ditty. I believe the title of this song translates as, “Look out, I am going to spin”. If the young lady dressed as a gypsy caravan can pick up some speed with those arms of hers, she could take out her entire backing band of ethnic musicians dressed as children’s TV presenters. The song is bubbly folk, bursting into sudden and unexpected bouts of loud enthusiasm before subsiding back into hurdy gurdy.
“Is It True?”
Iceland does not want to win Eurovision. Iceland can’t afford roads right now; they certainly can’t afford a song contest. I’m amazed they even bothered to field a contestant, but maybe Yohanna was on holiday in Moscow when the economy collapsed, and since she was stuck there without a flight home, Iceland decided to let her compete so long as she did her own hair and sang a safely unmemorable song. They must be horrified that she got beyond the semi-finals. If Iceland could afford an assassin, they’d take her out in the first chorus.
“This Is Our Night”
You may recognise Mr Rouvas from such Eurovisions as 2004 (performing) and 2006 (hosting). And if you Google him, you’ll find that there are very few pictures of him wearing a shirt. His nipples are the best known in Europe. The song is pure Europop - grinding, repetitive and overheated, with a heavy dose of mid-90s trance throbbing along in the background. Sakis looks like he enjoys a bit of throbbing.
Inga & Anush
It wouldn’t be Eurovision without yodelling, but this one sticks within the legal limit, and once you get past the obligatory cultural warbles, this morphs into one of the stranger entries in the contest; it’s like a Bollywood hokey-cokey, but without any perceptible rhythm. Following the dance moves would be like trying to play Twister on an escalator.
Russia were lobbying to win the contest for a long time, and would have invaded some bitches if they hadn’t won last year, so hurray, thank God gaypalooza is in homophobic Moscow this year! But few countries want to win twice in a row, which is why Russia has found some miserable under-age gangster’s moll, given her a shower and a fresh change of clothes, and told to go out on stage and lament and smile. As soon as the show is over, they’ll sell her in exchange for a bootleg DVD of Twilight. (Russians love glampires.)
AySel & Arash
I love Azerbaijan very much. They made their Eurovision debut last year with perhaps my favourite entry of all time; a homoerotic rock duet between a screeching meringue angel and a growling leather-trousered devil (pictured above). “Ze urse is in flame, and you mast share ze blem”. They could never hope to match that genius this year, so they’ve opted for a more conventional, slightly ethnic male/female duet, with a thin Martine McCutcheon and a young Andy Abraham. It’s a bit of a step down from the falsetto rockpocalypse.
Regina, you will note, means ‘Queen’, but don’t expect any Freddie Mercury glam operatics from this band. The Bosnian Queen like to dress as a touring production of Les Mis and sing Teutonic drinking songs with military drums. It’s all appallingly glum. I think ‘bistra voda’ is an alcoholic drink distilled from gravy granules. This would explain why they’re so upset.
“Hora Din Moldova”
This is a song about the hora (as in, the dance) in Moldova (as in, the country next to the country where Michael Praed is presumably now king). I used to know how to dance a hora, but it didn’t look anything like whatever it is these people are doing. Things are different in Moldova. Poorer, but with more tablecloths. Still, if we must have folk music, I welcome this upbeat cheerful folk music full of men shouting ‘hey!’.
“What If We”
We’ve seen Chiara on this show before, so I think I’ve already made the ‘Malta in an evening dress’ joke. Chiara looks a bit like Adele, if Adele went to an all-you-can-eat buffet where they were serving fresh baked Allison Moyet. Chiara doesn’t have that smoky voice, though; instead it’s a very nasal pop voice; one octave in search of an AutoTune. She delivers a stirring little anthem about stars and keys and dice and, oh, just all the different marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms.
The name of this act got me very excited. I thought it was going to be foxes playing car horns. Sadly it’s just Emily the Strange and a string section, and a song that starts off a little early Eurythmics, but turns into one of those layered numbers with dramatic synths and miserable wailing. Only at Eurovision is ‘dramatic synths and miserable wailing’ its own distinct genre of music. OK; Eurovision and Evanescence concerts.
Well, this is devastating. I always took comfort in the belief that Ronan Keating was a one-off. Seeing Brinck, I come to realise that there may be legions of moon-faced Bryan Adams wannabes injecting fake rock growl into their pappy pop voices and straddling their legs like they’re riding Tina Turner. My only solace now is the thought that, if there is a worldwide industry in Ronan Keatings, most of them failed, and have probably been boiled down to make glue. And that thought makes me happy again.
“Miss Kiss Kiss Bang”
Alex Swings, Oscar Sings
There is a lost Bond song called “Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, recorded by Dionne Warwick for Thunderball, which was eventually dropped for the Tom Jones title song. You can hear the Warwick song played against the Thunderball opening credits here. It has its charms. You can also hear the Shirley Bassey version here. Even Johnny Cash recorded a song for the movie, which you can hear here. None of this has anything to do with this scatty calypso song. Apparently Germany thinks it’s Havana in the 1920s. Back before, you know, history happened.
“Düm Tek Tek”
Just when you’re thinking the opening guitar line sounds peculiarly like something from 90s grunge rock, we’re rescued from musical legitimacy by the traditional Middle Eastern pipe music and a baseline either ripped from “Kiss Kiss”, or else from… every single song Turkey has ever entered in the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m led to believe that the people of Turkey do nothing but belly-dance all day. It sounds exhausting, but it is excellent cardio.
“Carry Me In Your Dreams”
And again with the pipes! Disco gypsy music must be absolutely huge in Europe, given how many countries offer up a slice of the genre at Eurovision every year. The day someone first plugged a Persian bagpipe into an amp was a banner day for Eastern Europe. If the UK ever does want to win Eurovision again, we should just send drum machines to all the traveller camps in Kent and see what comes back.
Norway has fielded a fiddling imp. Cease your fiddling, imp! Little Alexander is surely the Zac Efron of Norway, and like Zac Efron we would be better off not hearing him sing, as he looks and sounds like his voice is just on the cusp of breaking. The fiddling, on the other hand, is rather good, and this folksy jaunt is thus one of my favourites.
“Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)”
Svetlana has a lot going for her; big porn lips, stripped-down athletic men in plumed Roman helmets, the most intriguing song title in the contest, and the name ‘Svetlana’. It hardly matters that the song is a jumble of hectoring noise. I would definitely watch a TV show called Svetlana: Anti-Crisis Girl. She could jet around the world rescuing people from collapsed bridges and plummeting cable cars with the aid of her big lips and her corps of muscular dancing legionnaires. She also needs a nemesis. I’d suggest young Igor Cukrov of Croatia, but I fear she would make short work of seducing and killing him, poor lad.
“The Balkan Girls”
Romania, as you know, is famous for its pumping Latin beats. Elena, an Eastern Bloc version of Lindsay Lohan (with all the airport lounge sluttiness that implies), wants to tell us about the thrilling nightlife in Romania’s capital city of Slobdigabblegrad (all right, Bucharest, whatever.) The basic thrust of the song is that Balkan girls are cheap sluts and you should definitely come and party, ja! Balkan girls “shine” for the crowd’s delight, their hips “glow”, and their boobs “pulse” with radioactive fallout. That last bit isn’t in the lyrics, I’m just assuming. Elena does get some respect from me for saying she starts her weekend with “gin, tonic and lime”. Me too! Let’s hang out! You hang out over there, and I’ll hang out over here.
“It’s My Time”
By leaving the UK, I’ve missed the reality show that picked the person who would sing this Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Diane Warren number. Apparently the winner was Ms Lips McGee (though her lips have nothing on Svetlana). I’ve also not heard the song before, but just from the title I can tell it’s one of those ‘hey everyone, I just won a singing contest’ numbers. “This is my victory, I’ve come so far, thank you God and cough cough I just swallowed some confetti”. Actually, this is not even as good as most of those songs. The lyrics are astonishingly irritating, consisting as they do of the title repeated ad nauseam. Thanks, Diane Warren, for all your hard work.
Finland, home of Euro-rock, has this year opted for some pounding headache-inducing techno, with all the sophistication of a 2Unlimited B-side. The video features a man lying down in the middle of the road, which, having listened to this song, I may now do myself. Waldo’s People are discouraged from contacting my people.
“La Noche Es Para Mi”
And finally… a man-eating blonde singing an energetic dance number. My interest in such things is limited at the best of times, but after sitting through all these songs, my tolerance is at a new low ebb. Spain wins the prize for ‘most astoundingly generic act’ in this year’s competition.
That’s it; 25 countries, 25 songs, 25 tonnes of Maybelline foundation. I don’t know who the favourites are this year, but there’s a combination of public phone voting and panel voting, to break up the traditional blocs that have, like, totally robbed the competition of its credibility, so it’s tough to predict how that will skew things.
There’s not much this year that stands out in the way of contestants like Ruslana, Lordi, Verka Serduchka or the aforementioned French and Azerbaijani entries from last year. My personal favourites are France, Norway, Portugal and… oh, all right, Svetlana of the Ukrainian Steppe, the famous Anti-Crisis Girl. But ultimately, I think victory should probably go to Adam Lambert.
Remember, feel free to share your thoughts on this year’s contest in the comments - or to send your friends over here so they can share theirs! A Eurovision shared is a Eurovision halved.