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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision 2008 - The Review 


After a couple of years away, I am delighted to welcome back the annual Eurovision review. YAY!

Serbia won in 2007 and so hosted this year's extravaganza. I thought Terry initially billed it as a "Conference of Sound" and I excitedly prepared myself for several highly qualified guest speakers of Europopism, but sadly I had misheard and it actually turned out to be a "Confluence of Sound"...whatever that means. Still, there were plenty of highlights. Here is the rundown review:

1. Romania

Initial piano ballad stylings featuring a tall bloke in jeans and jacket combo and 3 slinky backing girls is transformed halfway through by a scary long ear-ringed lady who blatantly ruins the performance. Although he did look like a Thunderbird puppet, the bloke could at least sing in tune and actually turned on his operatic switch towards the end. Sadly the woman was woefully out of key and no amount of fist clenching could save the massacre. The performance did feature a head to head finish, but really this was a bit shit.

2. United Kingdom

"Are you ready?" shouted X-factor Andy. Well I certainly was and the tune quickly had some household toes a-tapping. Terry called it the "best [UK] entry for years", and in truth it was pretty good. Bonus points were given for the girl guitarist and happy bass player. The break it down moment featured Andy in a backing singer sandwich and he made good use of the walkway and crane shots. Sadly the chorus never really went anywhere, but still....last place? Give me a break.

3. Albania

This was called 'Hearts trapped in Time' and featured the first of many sexy lady singers. Following an acoustic start the song was cranked up to rocking pace. There were sultry looks aplenty from the lady singer, who, it turned out was wearing a matching cuffs, collar and cape ensemble. Nice. While she was being blown around by the gale force 8 wind machine the backing band looked like a bunch of bored waiters. Halfway through the camera focused on a girl guitarist looking particularly miffed. I think it was because the UK entry had bagged that particular motif already. That'll learn them. Sadly no catchy hooks for this song and so it got a resounding thumbs down.

4. Germany

Entitled 'Disappear' and performed by a group of girls called No Angels, this entry was absolutely appalling. The four singers were made up of two brunettes, a red-haired Leo Sayer looky-likey and a blonde tart who spent most of the song desperately trying to pull down her tiny dress while singing horrendously out of tune. I especially liked the moment she rubbed a scarf across her face in an attempt to look sultry, but which actually made her look more like an extra in an advert for Lenor. soft and fresh smelling. Fireworks definitely couldn't save this dross. The lyrics seemed to include the immortal line, "we got nowhere and it won't stop there"...which makes no sense. Terry said, "game effort" and that was being unbelievably generous.

5. Armenia

This was pretty good! A chanty start from the tassel-coated sexy female singer developed into a Europop classic with Eastern hooks and plenty of big hair hip tick-tocking. Throughout the song the well voiced lady was surrounded by 3 bloke dancers who produced some stellar floor work including knee slides and a human pyramid (a thankless task in any book). The catchy "Qele Qele" chorus was a sure-fire winner. Not that they won.

6. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Now I had seen this in the semi-final on Tuesday (beyond the call of duty I know, but there was nought else on TV) and therefore knew what to expect from this performance, i.e. a mad Helena Bonham-Carter looky-likey running around the stage with her psychotic brother while being watched by 4 pensioners in wedding dresses. As it turns out, however, this did have a catchy tune and was pretty fun to watch. There was some particularly expert crane shot work at the jumping "whooo" moment, and apart from the overwhelming sense of "look at us, we're crazy we are", this was quirky enough to prevent any boos from the live audience.

7. Israel

This big ballad was called 'The fire in your eyes' and primarily featured Israel's muscle bound pop-idol winner with his silver waistcoat and imploring eyebrows. I think Mel said he sounded like a girl on semi-final day. Anyhow, I particularly liked his 5 black shirted backing singers and their red-arrows-esque stage movements. Flight squadron position one...backs to the singer....position two, all bounce up and down for the final chorus (keep in time there Red leader)....position three, surround singer in a triangular pattern and nod encouragingly. The singer almost lost it in the last chorus, but thankfully held on for the final note. Phew.

8. Finland

"Hoo-Hah, Hoo-Hah....aaarrrrrggggghhhhhh." That's how this song began and how it will forever be remembered. Spinal tap rawk of epic proportions, this was atrocious. Bare chested, leather clad band; two drummers with spiky weapons banging away for all their worth; fire and smoke machines spewing out noxious gasses and the best ever one-handed guitar playing by a lead singer this side of the last Van Halen tribute act. Unfortunately they forgot to write any sort of tune and while the blond haired lovely playing lead guitar gave it some whelly with the last Hoo-Hah at the end, this was absolute genius/crap - you decide

9. Croatia

Another strange one this. Think Buena Vista Social Club if they all went slightly demented and from now on decided to play some form of Eurovision-fusion. Essentially a cabaret band with some major eccentricities, the group featured one bloke dressed in black who sang the majority of the verses while the one in white decided to have a good rant about halfway through. During this mayhem a slinky red-dressed lovely twirled around the stage potentially inducing several heart failures before inexplicably playing a bottle xylophone and pretending to be a doll. The final moment of madness saw the white suited old guy attempt some scratching on his gramophone. Sorted.

10. Poland

Big romantic ballad which Andy X-factor had declared as his favourite on semi-final Tuesday because it sounded like Celine Dion. Dear god, no wonder we finished last. The main participant was a very strange looking blond lady in an ill-fitting turquoise dress. She was joined by a sleepy string section and an old piano player who had been forced to wear a shiny white suit. Poor man. The singer did have a pretty big voice and certainly went for it during in the choruses. My favourite moment was when she slowly made her way down the walkway and happened to find a transparent microphone stand. What a coincidence. Cue large hand movements, a vocal vamp around the last note and a touching moment at the end when she thanked the Serbian people.

11. Iceland

Declared "dynamic" by Terry this was classic Europop. A cheeky blond haired lad (future part as Hollyoaks exchange student guaranteed) in pink sequins sings his heart out and is treated to a 360 degree spinning close-up. Initially there were only 4 backing singers standing around so I focused on the lyrics. The main line was, "I open my eyes and finally realise/this is my life." Fair enough, but my personal favourite was the rhyming of "years" with "tears" and then "fears." Nice work. Unfortunately, some lady with dodgy vocals appeared from nowhere halfway through and it all went a little too holiday camp for my liking.

12. Turkey

Essentially a guitar band fronted by another out of work Thunderbird puppet, this was a pretty forgettable rocker. He did have very black hair though. Plus, they were definitely a proper band as I clearly saw one of their amps at the back of stage. Shame there were no leads coming out of it. That said, I particularly enjoyed the moustachioed bass player who would randomly punch the air despite being completely out of time with the music. That's the spirit.

13. Portugal

This was called 'The Lady of the Sea' and although the large lead singer with Pat Butcher earrings could conceivably double as a German U-boat, I failed to discern any particular aquatic theme to the music. In fact it was all a little folky. Accompanying said singer were 5 white clothed dancers. I especially liked the Simon Anstell-haired one on the end who successfully kept a straight face throughout. There was lots of wandering around, occasional hand gestures, then some more walking. The wind machine struggled to shift any performers and it all got a bit too shouty at the end. Must try harder.

14. Latvia

This was much...ermm...better? It certainly introduced a whole new genre - Sea Shanty Europop! YAY! Rather oddly, the band were called, 'The Pirates of the Sea' while the song was titled, 'Wolves of the Sea'. C'mon people. Anyway, 6 pirates (3 jolly men, 3 busty women) had a great time running around singing, "Hi Hi Ho, Hi Hey Hey." In fact, this song probably contained my favourite lyric in the whole contest with, "We are robbing you blind/I hope you don't mind." Certainly not...rob away old chum. A punch the air dance routine got the crowd going, flags came out at the key change and although they all started to run out of steam towards the end they still finished with guns in the air style. For some reason there were some boos from the audience. I can only think this was because the performers didn't really use the steering wheel on stage and therefore were being critiqued for their poor sailing skills. What tosh. This was genius.

15. Sweden

Who told me that this song was a favourite to win? I don't know, but sadly it turned out to be a frankly dodgy Europop track. A skinny lady with strange feline features and who was certainly a little bit too old to be wearing such a small dress sang for her life, but was let down by a non-existent melody. I did like the two female backing singers who power-walked down the steps and took part in the first clenching dance routine, but sadly they and the key change couldn't prevent the general air of disappointment that lingered once the last synthesised beat had faded away.

16. Denmark

The song was called "All Night Long", but Lionel Richie was nowhere to be seen. Instead we had a bouncy front-man dressed like an extra from Oliver Twist, giving his best "come hither" hand motions and singing a kind of David Essex pop ditty. Very odd. The drummer seemed to have two kick drums, one perched precariously on the side of his kit (thank god they didn't have the wind machine on...). There was some extended walkway use during the break it down middle eight and while the lyrics were a little strange ("all I know is that today tomorrow will be gone"), there wasn't a great deal to cling to with this track.

17. Georgia

Terry did this no favours by introducing it as "slightly depressing" and he wasn't far off the mark. Although they didn't say it, I think the leading lady with large dark glasses must have been blind as she didn't move a step during the song. Instead she had several dodgy dancers circling her at all times. These included two blokes with big hair who were actually really rubbish - less then stellar floor work by them. Halfway through a big white sheet was draped over everyone and when it was removed everyone's costume had transformed from black to white.'s magic. The song was called, 'Peace will come' and thankfully it arrived after about 3 minutes.

18. Ukraine

Ahh, "Shady Lady." With such a great name I had high hopes for this song. Thankfully it didn't disappoint with the Ukrainians pulling out all the stops in this Europoptacular performance. It definitely featured the skimpiest costume in the entire contest and the busty singer frequently encouraged her dancing band of men with some top quality hip gyrating skills. The lyrics revolved almost entirely around "burning hearts" and setting people on fire and we quickly got a picture of where this was heading. Plenty of use was made of the big stage set they had wheeled on and when the lady suddenly appeared draped on top the crowd went mad. Pretty good.

19. France

What was this? I'm still not totally sure, but it had a nice poppy tune and interesting front man. It started with a troop of female backing singers wearing fake beards and glasses. To no-one's surprise on came the singer wearing a real beard and glasses. That he drove in on a golf buggy carrying an inflatable globe was a little odd mind. He then proceeded to wander around the stage missing all the camera cues (the show's director must have been going spare) and singing about trying to find the milky-way. There was a nice break it down gospel style moment and just like that it ended. I liked.

20. Azerbaijan

Quite a performance for their first ever Eurovision entry. Two shouty singers, one dressed as an angel, one as some leather bondage king; one with the highest voice ever, the other with a less high voice (his attempt to replicate his partner in crime at the end was shocking); one with a team of angel ladies, the other with two naughty companions certainly gave us an interesting show. There was plenty of, "I will win", "no, I will win" theatrics and when the evil singer poured some wine over one of his maidens things took a turn for the worse. Eventually the evil one decided to turn good, cue the aforementioned attempt at a high note. Worrying.

21. Greece

Competing with Ukraine for the title of raunchiest performance of the evening, this spectacular slice of Europop revolved around a lovely lady wearing a pink dress and 3 be-suited blokes with some tiggerish dance moves. Bounce, bounce, bounce, spinny-spins-spins etc. The instrumental break witnessed the most aggressive hip and bust-thrusting action ever seen at a Eurovision song context before a pop-up stage set appeared and a hidden costume change took place. She rhymed "combination" with "destination" and "imagination", but my favourite moment was when the leading lady stopped singing and out of nowhere came some deep voice saying "laaadddyyyyyy". It turns out there were four backing vocalists relegated to the shadows at the side of the stage...bless. "Top ten" predicts Terry at the end. Few would disagree.

22. Spanish

The crescendo of boos that rang out at the end this performance was so loud you had to feel a little bad for the performers....what am I saying? This was atrocious, they deserved everything they got. A dirty old man holding a toy guitar and wearing a fake Elvis wig mingles with 5 pant-showing girls while rambling on about something or other. In fact the chorus seemed to describe a series of dance moves which the girls subsequently acted out. My favourite was "Quatro...el Roboto", cue plenty of oooh, look I'm robot, see my jerky movements....bleep, bleep action. Eurovision at its best, this had no chance.

23. Serbia

The home town performance was an atmospheric affair that generated a good amount of applause. Sung by a long haired lovely, the song was a yearning ballad that started with a mandolin solo and also featured plenty of violin and flute. Although I liked the "noo nah ney" choruses there wasn't really much stage movement. In fact, once the backing dancers had woken up off the floor all they seemed to do was stand around looking stunned while holding hands. Very odd. There was a nice high note finish and all in all this was a pretty good affair.

24. Russia

No-one could question the passion in this performance. Wide-eyed young bloke in white shirt (I could swear he was in the Russian boyband 'Prime Minister' from Eurovision 2002) rolls around the floor a bit before launching into a big beat ballad. You could see he was really feeling the emotion of the song and with lyrics like "there's nooo limit to what I can dream" and "I believe in meeee" who could blame him? Accompanying the singer throughout was an equally excited violinist and halfway through both were joined by a Tim Brooke-Taylor looky-likey ice-skater. Now there's a gimmick. On their tiny ice-rink this unlikely trio whipped up a storm of epic proportions with some excellent looks to the camera and a multitude of spinny moves. When the white shirt was ripped open for the high note towards the end, I think we all knew this was a contender. In the end it proved to be so. Winner 2008.

25. Norway

This was my pre-final favourite and by finishing a well-deserved 5th I think many Eurovision viewers felt the same way. Starting out with a flourish of piano the song was a 60s esque pop number with plenty of nice guitar lines and horn licks. "Why won't anyone try me?" sang the leading lady in her slinky blue dress before punching out the catchy chorus with her trio of blonde haired backing lovelies. My favourite part of the act came with the "true, true, true" hand movements. It looked like they were high-fiving the invisible man. Superb.

There we have it. Eurovision 2008. Russia wins. UK finishes last. See you next year.


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