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Eurovision live(ish)blog

May 24th, 2008 (08:26 pm)

1. Romania enters first with an old-fashioned love duet, a bit formulaic for my taste.
2. United Kingdom. At least Andy is better than Romania.
3. Albania - pparently a suit-wearing folky girl, quite appealing - but frankly the military outfit with bare midriff demands a cummerbund. Oh look, a wind machine - looks to be trying for Eastern European epic rock style...
4. Germany - discoey, and ultimately just bland.
5. Armenia - more local in style it seems at first - then oh dear as the rock drums start going. Chest thrusts and hair-tossing don't make a hit. Or they shouldn't.
6. Bosnia-Hercegovina - a slapstick performance and what sounds like comic use of Serbo-Croat. Better than bland English-language Europop, and the most energetic so far. Terry Wogan likes it.

"Tonight Belgrade is the capital of the world, the capital of joy and happiness!" says the Serbian hostess outside City Hall.

7. Israel - Dana International writes... and it sounds heartfelt - but then turns into an anthemic ballad thing. Hm. Terry likes this one too. Oh, and a few lines in the middle of the song are in English, not (presumably) Hebrew. Still, not bad.

8. Finland - obviously the Eurovision home of black leather and long hair. This one has a chance - driving rock with a dash of camp and a strangely elfin lead. Maybe hair-tossing is in with a chance after all.

9. Croatia - 'Doves of Peace' - cynics might say these are needed in the Balkans. The song seems to be performed by members of the Mob. Is that a closed instrument case by the side of the stage? There's a woman in a red dress whose dance routine is having to do far too much. This is a good Mediterranean song of the kind I'd expect to hear in the background in an Italian or Greek restaurant - and the red-liquid filled bottle-chimes are a good gimmick. I'd fancy this one's chances.

10. Poland. Not the most flattering of frocks, frankly; and a song which could have been entered twenty years ago. Still, I suppose Eurovision demands a certain amount of continuity. A better song than the performer, I'd venture.

11. Iceland - a British writer, says Sir Terry. Even more disco than Germany's entry - and certainly the most intentionally camp, with all the pink piping, the deep-voiced soul diva and spiky-haired pop prince.

12. Turkey - potentially bonkers multi-genre-sapping pop on the surface, but failing to be really memorable.

13. Portugal - 'traditional' in a formal, drum-ratatating fashion. A sort of lament, I think. Good, but unlikely to go all the way.

14. Latvia - looks like a good comedy song and performance for pirate fans. Captain Jack Sparrow wannabes, strongly reminding me of Star Trekkin', though more orchestral. Again, will garner a few votes from the Eurovision party crowd, I'd have thought.

15. Sweden - the singer is made up to look like Gollum. Gollum in a silver dress. No - it was just the lighting. Now she looks like a bad and sweaty elf. Technically probably a good pop song, but not really my thing; but then, what is? There's an overfamiliarity to this supposed favourite which shouldn't help it, but beware the Scandinavian bloc vote.

16. Denmark - more overfamiliarity but this song is even more self-consciously retro. Didn't Billy Joel wear this kind of outfit in the 1980s, or am I misremembering? I wasn't paying that much attention, admittedly...

17. Georgia - "Peace will come" - again, I'm sure that's meant, given Georgia's disputes with secessionists and with Russia. A sort of glam/techno feel to the costuming.

18. Ukraine - overmade-up performer but she can at least move well. Not an inspiring song, but well-delivered and potentially even catchy, but the powerbeat helps. Terry Wogan thinks this has prospects... Somersaults do not a song make, however.

19. France - Sebastien Tellier. A line of backing singers in fake beards. The wind machine is getting more use. Self-aware in a more layered fashion than, say, the Bosnians, and building self-mockery into the storytelling in such a way that the song's kitschness isn't only there for its own sake. A strong contender, I think.

20. Azerbaijan - The Devil has all the best tunes. The metal card is being played again in a bid that a dash of Lordy will drag the EBU across to Baku next year, but without as much irony. That was a painfully unpiercing shriek from the lead angel, but it seems to have done the trick as the Devil is now in white and his scantily-clad girls are prostrate... No.

21. Greece - their flags were in evidence at the start of the show and they'll probably get a strong vote from Serbia, I'd have thought. A more modern pop sound (i.e. within the last fifteen years) here from one of the more girl-next-door performers, vaguely sub-Britney, with a bit of Greek twanging in the background. (Yes, my musical knowledge is far too low for me to be doing this, but I'll carry on regardless.) Vaguely catchy - should do well.

22. Spain - someone who seems to have patterned himself after a faded and torn 1970s picture of Rolf Harris found on a rubbish tip. One for the junior school disco, with its deliberately cheap keyboard sound.

23. Serbia - lots of cheers from the home crowd. Another restaurant backing track, but unlike the Croatian entry expecting to be taken straight, and the better for it. The crowd seem to be cheering the wind machine - no, it's the end of the song. This is another contender.

24. Russia - flirtatious performance from this chap seems at odds with the song, which is another lament-cum-'My Way' variant. I could imagine this one getting some airplay if its production was tweaked a bit for the release. Simple pleading song.

25. Norway - 'Nul points' is long banished. A sturdy looking girl with a solidly competent middle of the road number. A bit too many 'Oooh!'s, though, which let it down. "There's always someone out there who'll be there for you... Hold on..." One of those mother-to-daughter heartbreak-easing songs.

Now for the most entertaining part of it - the vote...

...and the woman presenter has changed into a nice short dress which reminds me of a cardigan (yes, you see my strange tastes). The BBC are very anxious, given recent events, to remind people not to vote.

Now we have the tallying entertainment. There's a woman in the crowd whose dress might fall off her. The excitement comes from a band full of brass-instrument players and a drummer, and dancers painted and dressed head to foot in red or blue. I was going to say that this wasn't Riverdance, but Terry Wogan got there first. Apparently there is a banner carried by some British fans bearing the legend "Justice for Cliff!" referring to the reports of Francoist vote-rigging in 1968.

In recent years the move to arenas and the like has made the whole event much more like a vast rally, with crowds bouncing up and down and waving flags.

Oh, the hostess has changed dress again. Now we have something checked, which ticks several ethnic boxes across Europe. The Germans are being encouraged to go mad in the green room. (Slender is definitely out this year as far as Eurovision performer body types go.) The Ukrainian singer has given her thank-you speech.

Svante Stotselius of the EBU admits that the most exciting part of the night is the voting. This was once officially denied.

Britain votes first - Latvia gets 10, and Greece 12. Definitely the party vote there, as well as the expats.

The German spokesman is wearing wings - obviously pro-Azerbaijan.

Lots of flagrant bloc voting of course... San Marino (participating for the first time) become the first people to give points (six) to the UK! Who needs proportional representation...?

It's starting to look like Greece's at 12 of 43, but still a long way to go. Israel, though, keeps Russia in the game... Of course, Cyprus votes for Greece and pushes it over the 100 point mark.

12 points from Moldova to Romania, of course... and the same from Iceland to Denmark.

They are, apparently, having a 'great party' in the green room. Yes, right.

Most of the national announcers have been badly briefed, as the graphics people in Serbia are fading up the first votes before they are announced, an there is an embarrassing pause.

Slovenia gives 12 points to Serbia - I'd expected them to do a bit better. Past half-way, and it's looking like Russia's night. Only one country so far has voted for the UK, whose entry is second from bottom on six points.

Ireland gives the UK eight points - third from bottom now..! Latvia gets twelve, which shows how the contest is taken in these islands. Then the Swiss voting makes the UK joint bottom.

Not a great surprise that Azerbaijan gives twelve points to Turkey, really.

35 of 43, and it looks like Moscow for Terry Wogan next year. The Ukraine is having a late run in the contest for second place, and has taken it. Russia didn't get any points from Denmark, but it didn't matter... 272 points wins it.

United Kingdom finishes bottom - Terry Wogan rules that this is no longer a music contest. What he and producer Kevin Bishop have to decide, he says, is whether they are doing this again; the same, he thinks, goes for western European countries as a whole, as their prospects are poor. "See you in Moscow - and possibly goodbye, western Europe."


Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
languages and Eurovision

I really can't see why they don't all sing in Esperanto!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
Re: languages and Eurovision

Unless there's a vast untapped market in Esperanto songs, I don't see it happening somehow...

Posted by: Freya (freya_9)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)

Thanks for writing this - I'm listening to it on the radio, so joining what i hear to your descriptions is fun :)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 08:59 pm (UTC)

For an interpretation often at variance with mine, have a look at nwhyte's LJ, which has more cross-references to other liveblogs.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who

I misread 'Romania' as 'Romana'. My subconscious must have been expecting a Doctor Who review.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)

I plan one of those this weekend!

Posted by: The Two Trees (arda_unmarred)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)

this is the one contest where you, as a spectator, begin by knowing that Armenia will do very, very well. 4th is a bit high, but I expect Armenia to stay in the top 10 for years to come.

The Russian song wasn't great though... one of the worst winners I can remember.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)

I wasn't that surprised that Armenia did well; I expected Latvia to do better, and Sweden, and Albania.

Posted by: The Two Trees (arda_unmarred)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)

I was rooting for Croatia all the way - but they never had a chance. Portugal deserved much better than it got. And it's a pity about the UK, for once they actually had a decent song.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)

The last time the UK won was in 1997, before the main influx of eastern European countries, and when there was Europe-wide euphoria for Tony Blair, who seemed to be about to lead Britain into Europe. This didn't happen, of course...

Posted by: brewsternorth (brewsternorth)
Posted at: May 24th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)

I knew that bloc-voting meant that the UK probably didn't have a prayer, but Russia... gosh. No doubt Dmitri Medvedev will be preening over this.

Posted by: azdak (azdak)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 07:05 am (UTC)

Austria refused to enter this year, on the grounds of excessive bias in favour of the eastern Europeans. I thought that was pathetic, but perhaps they had a point (although the idea that anyone might seriously care about winning Eurovision is one I still haven't got used to).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 10:18 am (UTC)

I think that it was the Ukrainian spokeswoman who said that last night was "about the winning". The contest has been changed by the arrival of the former eastern bloc countries who see it as a valuable promotional channel, and by the move to telephone voting both for individual countries' heats and for the main contest, which shows how the taste of the BBC 1 viewer is distant from that of Europe. I think the UK would have more chance with something less urban, but it's never going to win...

Posted by: The Two Trees (arda_unmarred)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)

but many eastern block countries have been since 1994 - but it only seems that they started winning recently

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)

I think that the 'bloc' took time to emerge, and really solidified once telephone voting came in.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 10:01 am (UTC)

He (or his strangely familiar prime minister) will probably present the award next year - Victor Yuschenko did when the contest came from Kiev.

Posted by: The Two Trees (arda_unmarred)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)

but many people in western europe voted for them also...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)

True - Russia (and the Ukraine) showed strongly, rarely falling below six points.

Posted by: The Two Trees (arda_unmarred)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)

what I am getting at is that Wogan is wrong. Block voting is important (although not as important as expat voting), but it won't get you there alone. A song actually needs to appeal accross the continent in order to win.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)

I agree with this up to a point; there is clearly a pattern of voting by subcommunity, though, with whoever is leading in eastern Europe having the best chance of winning. The pattern has emerged since televoting became dominant - in the mid-1990s when the former communist countries first arrived they voted by jury, and perhaps the juries were more anxious to display 'western' tastes. This is why I think, as I wrote above, that the UK would make more of an impression if it fielded someone a bit more folkish or who calculated their sense of humour in a way that didn't patronise the contest (such as Lordy two years ago from Finland). Germany tried being 'serious' and fielding one of their top chart pop acts this year, and it was a disaster.

Posted by: The Two Trees (arda_unmarred)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)

just field a carbon copy of Bilan. Someone who would be popular in the majority of european states, and you will be halfway there.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 25th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)

British pop music is too Atlantic at the moment, particularly the bland mainstream which feeds Eurovision. Getting someone outside this tradition through the televoting in the selection process (which I don't see the BBC dropping) will be difficult.