ello there. Welcome to Stylus’ first (I think) attempt at covering the Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s premier inter-country pop-music throwdown. Thinking about it that might actually be World Idol these days. Not for our purposes, though.
Plus which, World Idol has no history and is run by and for That Damn Simon Fuller Man. Eurovision stretches back to 1956, with viewing figures in the hundreds of millions around the world (think this year’s estimate was 500 million). It’s the only entertainment show that gets broadcast across the whole of Europe, and, what with the language barriers and such, is pretty much the only chance most people get to see what the state of popular music is in the rest of Europe. For the UK, it often has the hidden agenda of laughing at how rubbish foreign pop and, by proxy, the rest of Europe is. The UK last won Eurovision in 1997 by re-heating Katrina & The Waves. Last year they finished last out of 26 countries.
Every year, the member nations of the European Broadcasting Union put forward a song to represent their country at Eurovision. This year for the first time saw a semi-final stage added to the competition, whereby ten songs from 22 were picked to go forward and join 14 others in the final, those 14 comprising entries from countries that had finished well the previous year and/or contribute major amounts of money towards the funding of Eurovision. However, the semi-final only went out on cable over here, so we’re concentrating on the final, with 24 songs representing 24 countries.
In order to get a proper handle on the event, Stylus cast its net far and wide to find people of suitable writing quality who would also happen to have that Saturday night free and could see Eurovision on the telly. The panel they ended up assembling consists of Stylus writers Alex MacPherson, Edward Oculicz, Dom Passantino and William Swygart; Euro-pop-bloggers Mind Taker, Jessica Popper, Daniel Reifferscheid and Diego Valladolid; ilxor.com Top 40 Prediction League champion Alex Linsdell; and Dan Smith, who used to go to uni with Swygart and is reasonably fussy about his personal appearance, which seemed like a decent enough qualification.
These ten people then offered their thoughts on the performances and the night’s goings-on in general, which have been edited together below. Also, just for fun, they scored the performances based on the Eurovision voting system, taking their favourite ten performances and ranking them, giving them points on the following scale:
12 points (favourite) 10
1 (tenth favourite)
But enough of all that – on with the show!
Swygart: The intro spans across either Istanbul or Turkey via helicopter. The arena looks intimidating – rammed with people clutching little flags and, most impressively of all, little glowing bulbs – the opening shot over the whole auditorium is spectacular.
Passantino: Germany’s Eurovision party is being hosted by Bob Mills!
Smith: And so my first ever Eurovision begins: with Mariah Carey’s uglier older sister bellowing as if she’s auditioning for a Hammer horror flick.
Linsdell: It is immediately glaringly obvious one year on that Sertab is Dirty Den's secret wife but is redeemed by that whole excellent crunchy-wavey-tighty hair thing going on which always looks great on anybody regardless of the size of their nose.
Oculicz: Her dress is horrible, her voice is terrific. Her choreography has stolen liberally from Sweet Dreams My LA Ex and the dancers may have escaped from an Atomic Kitten video shoot. I wuv Sertab.
Passantino: Your hosts: sex-starved neighbour from a cancelled Fox sitcom and a carpet warehouse manager.
Linsdell: The hosts have been out back in the green room eating babies, possibly lost track of time and shunted onto stage in hurried and truly unslick manner.
Swygart: They attempt a singalong of Volare. Welcome to Eurovision.
RAMON – Para Llenarme de Ti
Popper: I'm not a huge fan of Latino pop but Eurovision sometimes uncovers some gems. This is not one of those times.
Valladolid: Oh my. They spent all month talking about how surprising the act was going to be... and this is it?
Linsdell: "Ramon" plays guitar for two bars and then immediately gets bored of it and hands it to one of his co-stage minions in manner of 2000-era Madonna…
Smith: …but the guitar carries on playing. Perhaps it’s like Sparky the Magic Piano. This is awful faux-salsa music, but our hero appears to find it necessary to deliver it standing like Lemmy from Motorhead.
Valladolid: The girls take off his jacket, there's a brief moment of excitement when the drummer goes mental, but little else.
Reifferscheid: I never thought I’d say this, but there’s limits to how much a long-haired guy in a leisure suit with a drum can enhance a performance.
Valladolid: I think this song shows how Spanish songwriters and arrangers are not as good at South American latin-pop as they're convinced they are -and that since the Remedios Amaya fiasco of years ago, they're afraid of sending something that's really Spanish-flavoured from head to toe. A shame, with people such as Queco -the man behind "The Ketchup Song"- proving that truly Spanish pop can be enjoyed outside our frontiers.
TIE-BREAK – Du Bist
Passantino: Austrian boy band, apparently including a young Freddie Ljungberg amongst their number, seemingly unaware that the last ten years of pop music have actually happened.
Reifferscheid: Living in Portugal, this “Wogan” fellow that the Brits get all angry about is completely unknown to me; instead, I get a bored voice-over that introduces Tie Break as “die break”, which might have been due to a lack of English pronunciation skills but more likely is down to the speaker bearing an intense grudge against Austrian youths who look like Busted if they starred in a German soap. I think I win.
Linsdell: They are smiling lots which is neither moody nor alluring and they are far too pleased to be here/there.
Mind Taker: I know “boring” is one of the most oblique and meaningless over-used terms in popcrit… but you must admit the phrase “boring Austrian boyband balladry” is somewhat evocative, right?
Oculicz: Fucking awful. Go away please. After the comedy act they put in last year, Austria should be banned. So should every country that voted for them, too.
KNUT ANDERS SORUM – High
Valladolid: The singer begins the song with his hands posed like he's holding two invisible bottles of beer. Strange.
Swygart: My mum is making hand gestures that some cultures could possibly equate with dancing.
Smith: This sounds like a Bee Gees album track reject being sung at least fifteen octaves too low. He’s resorted to the tactic of holding every note for ten minutes, but this doesn’t work as his nose has been filled in with cement.
Oculicz: Very promising in the verses, almost reminded me of Mister Mister, chorus slightly forgettable, but this was well done. I like Knut's look - I could see it working for me.
Reifferscheid: Sorum also impressed me with his fly threads (grey jacket, blue sleeved shirt, white t-shirt, three chains) and the idea that he must be something like the Norwegian Ashton Kuchter, only better.
Linsdell: His cuffs are geometrically perfect equilateral triangles and his eyes are more bereft of life than those of anyone else in the history of ever.
Smith: Bryan Adams had hair like that once.
JONATAN CERRADA –A Chaque Pas
Smith: Hair: Superb. Messy, scruffy, but intentionally so. Like Beckham at his best mullet stage but a tad longer.
Mind Taker: Agonizingly pointless ballad with no dynamics or hooks whatsoever by a French person. Of course UK and Ireland entries are still to come, but this might just turn out to be the worst moment of this year’s proceedings.
Smith: This is much more like it. Yet another ballad, but it’s of at least Barlow quality and the singer-man is giving it some real stick. And best of all, a woman on nine foot stilts is dancing round him.
Swygart: As co-written by Welsh one-hit-wonder Steve Balsamo, ‘Chaque Pas’ features a woman standing on stilts dancing like Ian Curtis.
MacPherson: Oh my days, there's a bald woman on stilts at the front of the stage, gyrating for all she's worth, certainly not in time to the beat (what beat?) Oh my days, he's singing to her. Is this like a giant fetish or something?
Linsdell: The stilt woman is maybe intended as a nifty talking point except there is nothing whatsoever to say about her other than that she is possibly one of the Hippychicks who used to be in Soho, and at no point do you actually think she is going to fall over, and her arm jerkings are quite neat purely because they are so jerky and unfluid, this may be intentional or it may just be a lack of professionalism. So there are one or two things to say about her, in fact.
Popper: Apparently this is based on The Little Prince and it may have been a very long time ago when I last read that book but I'm certain there were no stilts or French pop idols involved.
SERBIA & MONTENEGRO
ZELJKO JOKSIMOVIC – Lane Moje
Mind Taker: First Serbian entry in 12 years, holla! I wish they mustered up the courage to send something more upbeat to Istanbul; nevertheless, this is a nice, lush piece of sweeping Balkan melancholy.
Oculicz: Actually, having seen this at the qualifiers, I wondered whether the shock of that beautiful arrangement would be lost by Saturday. It was a bit, and this remains a stunning soundscape in search of a stirring song to go with it. It instead settles for haunting, and it came across very well on the night.
Linsdell: He is playing a nose flute and it is all quite new-age and ethnic and Shared Earth and a bit horrible but then there are some backing shudderings and it takes off a BIT (all things being relative) kind of like Enigma singles always did except they weren't so bad really. The guy singing is nasty-Andy-from-Eastenders-doing-Marc-Almond-on-Stars-In-Their-Eyes but unfortunately the track itself does not borrow heavily from either the Soft Cell or Solo Marc Almond oeuvre.
Valladolid: Lacking a better understanding of the folkloric nuances in that part of Europe, I'd say this songs reminds me of Demis Roussos, only without Demis' delightful histrionics. This is one of my favourites.
MacPherson: The violin solo is lovely! Ew, he's waxed his chest.
JULIE & LUDWIG – On Again… Off Again
Popper: I've never seen anyone who suits their names more than these two. He's such a Ludwig.
Passantino: “Memories of Renee and Renato,” says Wogan. Yes, because there’s so few duets between men and women in contemporary pop you have to cast your mind back to 1981 to remember another, huh Terry?
Mind Taker: This - is more like it. 4x4 beatz! Girl with a pink dress and Mariah Carey cheeks! Faintly sleazy guy with a mullet! Breakdowns with faux-operatic yelping!
Linsdell: FINALLY SOME EURODISCOPOPLITE FINALLY FUCKING HELL SIX TRACKS IN FINALLY FINALLY ALSO BUTTERFLIES AND GENTLY WAFTING GRASS AND DISCO DISCO DISCO DISCO and of course it's not remotely as good as that might imply …
MacPherson: Why is there a random 12-year-old child hanging around at stage right? Eek - he's started singing like Andrea Bocelli, and a common-or-garden disco tune has suddenly metamorphosed into Phantom Of The Opera.
Smith: It’s a boy/girl duet with a special twist: neither of them can harmonise.
Valladolid: She eats him alive. You can barely hear him when they're singing at the same time.
Linsdell: Lots of "ha-ha-haa-haaaaaaaaa!"ings from her which are actually pretty great in context and certainly the nature-y background thingy assists and it's definitely more FUN than anything else so far. In relation to the track itself their singing is surely every bit as flat as Jemini were last year but we will forgive them this, and also the slightly operatic/grownup tendencies of this song (which clearly sees itself as several cuts above your usual bit of EURODISCOPOPLITE because these people are adults and she might be wearing pearls maybe) because they have a bit of a tune and put on a bit of a show and it's sort of okay.
Oculicz: I thought this was delightful. "Just like a butterfly, my wings can take me high" in particular being a jaunty, bouncy hook to bug the brain for eternity. Well sung, both in the technical show off bits and the lovely pop bits, and rather cute.
Passantino: I may have just lost the last vestiges of my heterosexuality.
RE-UNION – Without You
Swygart: We open with barbershop ‘oohs’ and clicks. It looks good, then we see the performers…
Mind Taker: Two dudes are sitting and singing, one of whom is strumming a guitar – thousands of viewers around the continent simultaneously think: “EXTREME, them of MORE THAN WORDS fame”!
Reifferscheid: They probably look to Modern Talking like Modern Talking looked to Wham!.
Linsdell: When he slaps his guitar the sound is audible, giving it a "lovely" school assembly sellotape-and-string quality; this has maybe been bashed together in four minutes.
MacPherson: Ugly men sitting on stools clutching acoustic guitars. I don't need to pay attention to this. Where's the wine?
MAX – Can’t Wait Until Tonight
MacPherson: And it's the one we've all been waiting for! What madness will the Germans come up with this year? Everyone in the room is genuinely on tenterhooks... and oh no, it's a man on a stool with a comb over.
Mind Taker: Apparently, this year Germany made a conscious effort to modernize their contribution to Eurosong, and went for acts of more contemporary pop feel and worth. Eventually the choice was down to Max and Scooter. The voters then decided that sending Scooter to Eurosong would be a bit too much, so they chickened out and opted for Max. Truth be told, the Scooter effort was below their occasionally godlike standards… but it was certainly not as crap as this!
Valladolid: Jesus H. Christ. I'm already tired of seeing Max's video-clip on German MTV, I didn't know that it actually was an Eurovision entry till last week.
Passantino: “Just a hint of Jamie Cullum about this” opines our idiot host. He’s right, insofar as this track is tedious as barium.
Linsdell: Everyone tickles their instruments as if afraid to make contact with them. Actually could not be worse in any way. He yelps; I hate him.
MacPherson: Actually, the song is rather good - the kind of thing Will Young is doing now. But there are no zany costumes, and no ridiculous dances, which is rather disappointing.
Popper: I'm just not keen on his voice or Max himself. He has a very unpleasant face and terrible hair, and these things matter greatly to a girl like me.
ANJEZA SHAHINI – The Image Of You
Valladolid: I must admit, I find her disgusting.
Linsdell: Hurrah! She looks really great!
Passantino: Looked a bit like Lolly.
MacPherson: Her dress is really nice!
Smith: The girl looks like an attractive, if quite short, airline hostess. In other words, orange. Her teeth are awful.
Reifferscheid: It’s quite shocking to hear that Albanian candidate Anjeza Shahini was actually picked because she won the Albanian equivalent of Pop Idol: her expression is so blatantly, cynically fake, a yellow smile plastered on her face, the exact opposite of the everywoman qualities that reality TV is supposed to put to show (good on her, too, spiteful showbiz decadence is much more fun to watch).
Smith: She’s singing along to a daytime soap theme tune. There’s a dreadful guitar solo by numbers, which means this soap is about farms or boats.
Passantino: The worst executed attempt at going from a soulful intro into a high NRG main track ever.
Mind Taker: Yes, yes, yes, YES! The hype around this one is completely justified. I fear that if Albania wins with this, the costs of organizing the next Eurosong will drive the country to bankruptcy. But they SHOULD win! Stellar disco-pop like this is what Eurosong is all about.
Linsdell: Discreet and understated and quavery but manna from heaven in present company and pretty tremendous in any context really with squirty background noises and splendidly pedestrian aluminium-lite beat and it's really almost ace. Nice plastic geetar solo. Her voice is great and sunshiney and Capri-Sun and one of her backing singers is the guy from Caroline In The City which is a neat glamour-subversion and dammit this is top notch, almost, um, WANTON and SLEAZY and and and FUN which has been sorely lacking so far obviously. Brilly.
Oculicz: A breathless, classy pop song worthy of the best commercial Swedish hit factory. Its gradual transition from a fan-favourite, but low-scoring mess to shimmering masterpiece finally ended on Saturday - Wednesday's enthusiastic but ragged performance replaced by a confident, if quiet one for the big night - and YES! they brought out the GUITAR SOLO that was absent in the qualifying round. Absolute class. Search down the early live recordings, they're fantastic as well.
RUSLANA – Wild Dances
Swygart: Jesus! Arses! Shaking! Leather! A Ukrainian Woman Yelling!
MacPherson: IT'S CALLED "WILD DANCE"!!!!!!!! IT FEATURES - WAIT FOR IT - A WILD DANCE!!!!!!! IT HAS YODELLING IN IT!!!!!! SHE LOOKS LIKE CATHERINE ZETA-JONES DOING XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS!!!!!!!
Smith: This sounds a lot like Kiss Kiss by Holly Valance/that Turkish bloke. The singer-girl is just shouting, and there are a million dancers in leather skirts. Even the men. But look at the singer-girl’s thighs!
Oculicz: I am going to Kiev in 2005 to stalk her, she is amazing.
Linsdell: Certainly the cameraman is street teaming for these kids with his totally winning "jolting to the beat" technique here and there is actual movement and energy and Purpose to it. Despite the tribal stompings it's not just DOOF DOOF DOOF, the versey beats are all trickly and wrongfooted and hopscotchy and effortless and yet the whole thing is far and away the most memorable and catchy spectacular of the whole night.
Valladolid: This is what Eurovision is about. Everything in the song is a hook. The choreography is ridiculous and impressive at the same time. Not that I would really like this to become a trend, but I hope Mediterranean DJs take good note - I can't wait to hear this coming out of full volume speakers somewhere near the beach this summer.
Reifferscheid: Let’s hear what my friend the bored Portuguese voice-over has to say:
“More of a fun Broadway choreography than a song.”
Fuck you, bored Portuguese voice-over.
Mind Taker: Definitely the most impressive stage show so far: bunch of scantily-clad people inna “Eyes Like Yours”-mode Shakira meets Conan the Barbarian chic stylee doing tribal dances. Yowsa!
Popper: Earlier in the evening I tried to demonstrate this dance routine to my Dad, who wouldn't believe that, despite the title and her breaking of the stage in rehearsals, Ruslana's dancing could be quite as 'wild' as I claimed. He took it all back as soon as he saw her. The song isn't brilliant and I can't say I remember any of the words but the performance overall was fantastic. Perfect for Eurovision.
Swygart: The song itself is Shakira goes to the Balkans. With a quite staggering amount of yelling, hoisting on shoulders, air-punching… Amy Lee gets her groove on? With the mountain men? God knows, but you get the feeling everyone else really ought to go home now, because Ukraine are owning tonight big style.
Linsdell: It is exotic and fleetfooted and glorious and fetishy and does everything right and I love it and want it to win.
MacPherson: This is clearly the best thing ever, and MUST WIN.
Passantino: “That’s going to get a lot of votes when the voting closes.” Cheers for that Terry.
IVAN MIKULIC – You Are The Only One
Popper: Can't remember this at all!
Passantino: “Rocco’s Pizza Parlour: Live Music On Thursdays”
Oculicz: Extremely well-sung, and the last chorus is certainly explosive, but you have to wait an awfully long time to get to it. And that long wait is VERY VERY BORING.
Mind Taker: For years, Croatia sent tawdry shite ballads to Eurosong and failed miserably. Finally, last year, we gave you something more upbeat and contemporary and overall reasonable… and how did you repay us? By flunking us again. So we got scared and reverted back to tawdry shite ballads. Thanks for nothing Europe, YOU SUCK!!!
DEEN – In The Disco
Passantino: Toni and Guy stylist growls all over “Hot Stuff” as performed by Republica.
Smith: He’s tanned, he’s waxed and he’s wearing a white vest. The song is being lisped brilliantly. He couldn’t get closer to a stereotype of a gay man if he tried. Superb. Shame it sounds like they’ve never actually heard any disco in Bosnia.
Reifferscheid: Bored Portuguese voice-over guy informs me that Deen used to be an economist, which makes perfect sense, because despite this being an ultra-pink camp overkill thing of wonder, it just feels a tad too calculated.
Valladolid: Like Ruslana, the singer acts like he NEEDS to win; if he doesn't, he probably would like to be at the bottom, so he can boast that Eurovision wasn't ready for him.
Mind Taker: As far as probably-gay Moroderiana goes, “In The Disco” is fine stuff. Moreso if one takes into account that it was written by the until now otherwise completely uninteresting Croatian chanteuse Vesna Pisarovic.
Oculicz: This seemed to be a very good performance, the cold mechanical sheen of Deen's vocals on the studio version almost coming across sounding warm.
Popper: Great song for Eurovision and one of my favourites. Deen is possibly the gayest man alive and my musical taste is as camp as a tent full of drag queens so we're a match made in heaven (or in the disco, perhaps). Up and down, here we go!
MacPherson: What this song needs is a Victoria Beckham guest appearance.
In the half-time interval for ad breaks, Turkish TV manage to get an outside link to Germany but cock up the outside link to, er, Istanbul.
XANDEE – 1 Life
Passantino: Long-faced disco diva action, possibly written for use in the Flemish version of Queer As Folk.
Swygart: It sounds a touch like Steps, but not sung as well.
Valladolid: In Spain, this is the kind of music that's bought in gas stations.
Oculicz: I thought this was a fabulous performance of a very strong song. A fine piece of Euro-dance, and Xandee nailed it. Probably hurt that it came after a similar entry.
Reifferscheid: They work hard for their money – that’s some ferociously energetic booty shakin’ going on there, and the public’s initial reaction honors it. In the end, though, it mostly succeeds at making us think that they’re having more fun doing it than we do listening to it – which they most probably aren’t.
Popper: Quite a good song but not really fun enough to win. Needs a bald woman on stilts (or similar).
JULIA SAVICHEVA – Believe Me
Smith: Some incredibly buff dancers are flinging themselves round a fat Shirley Manson.
MacPherson: Half-naked painted men! Woo!
Linsdell: Technicolour hunks, well, splendid. Kind of a multicultural Hulk thing going on here perhaps, green and blue and red and purple but there isn't a yellow one because their trousers are yellow.
Smith: She likes standing on the dancers a bit too much. Especially as she doesn’t look that light. In fact she’s very strange – she looks fat but isn’t. This must be some Russian ex-military technology being deployed.
Passantino: Last year we had taTu shocking us with their sexy act. The only thing these could shock us with is actually hitting their notes every now and then.
Oculicz: Her vocals on the night sounded a bit more vulnerable and frightened than they do in the studio version, which fit the lyrics better. She also sounded less like Avril Lavigne than usual, though she threw that advantage away by looking more like her than usual, though she wisely didn't lug the guitar around like she did in the promo clip.
Valladolid: I'm so disappointed with this. I hoped Tatu had sparked a Russian pop revolution, and at first this Avril Lavigne-meets-Alizee kind of act was very promising. But, first of all, the little girl looks awfully worried when the dancers are carrying her around the stage. Second, she's the worst singer tonight; she goes out of tune every time she has to link two notes. Third, the song doesn't make good use of the predictable chord progression—the difference between a timeless song and a joke. Neither the singer nor the song deserves to be here tonight.
FORMER YUGOSLAVIAN REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
TOSE PROESKI – Life
MacPherson: "Gold! (Gold!) Always believe in your soul!"
Mind Taker: Glad to hear the trademark Macedonian 7/8 time signature. Sad to hear none of the flair and passion that tends to go along with it.
Valladolid: Macedonia's Gary Numan! The initial dance routine is promising. The singer is held from behind and shaken like a Polaroid picture. But then it stops, sadly.
Swygart: Then they start pulling out ribbons from the singer’s jacket and you realise someone in the FYROM thinks the best way to appeal to the home crowd is ripping off their hit from last year. It’s not terribly wonderful, really.
Linsdell: Kiss Kiss & Sertab & also the Ukraine all blended together and gurgling plugholewards, the strings are all frantic and deranged and stabby-stab and I really like this even though they are old men and it's all a bit worryingly traditional sounding. Also they utilise chairs.
SAKIS ROUVAS – Shake It
MacPherson: It's the first fit man of the evening! Good Lord, he's just pulled pink curtains out of his dancing girls' arses.
Mind Taker: Hmmm… rather nice, bastard Mediterranean disco stomp with bouncy R&B; interludes. But I can’t stand the guy’s voice! He spoils the tune beyond repair.
Smith: Dear God, how did he get those jeans on? They are ridiculously tight. Tighter than Britney Spears wears them in fact. Which is appropriate, because his song sounds like it was written by someone who heard "Toxic" once, and then tried very hard to remember and write it down. They may have had Alzheimer’s. Oh no, he’s wearing black loafers with his jeans. Hideous. He could be GI Joe as, despite the tightness of his jeans, there is no evidence of genitalia.
Valladolid: It seems that even Greece can write better, and more Eurovision-friendly, latin songs than us. "Shake mi amor!" sounds great. And the song is slightly more modern than Spain's entry. The singer does the full Latin-frontman repertoire, adding gymnastic moves and Eurovison clichés: there's a little of Chayanne, a little of Ricky Martin, someone takes clothing off someone or other…
Passantino: I never knew that women wore all-white trouser suits outside of tampon adverts.
Swygart: It’s the co-favourite, allegedly, and it’s a bit tricky to tell why initially – it sounds like that Enrique ‘n’ Kelis song, which wasn’t that wonderful, and has this suicidal impulse to run its half-decent chorus into the ground. Then Nikos whips off his dancers’ trouser suits to reveal spangly gold lame bikinis. More chorus. Then the dancers rip off his jacket and the lights go-a-flash-flash. Then more chorus. Yes, it’s probably got a chance.
Smith: And the piece de resistance! Pirouetting in a crop top. Genius. This should probably win, because it’s exactly what Eurovision is about.
JONSI – Heaven
Valladolid: This is a song called "Heaven" which at the beginning sounds like Talking Heads' "Heaven". But with stupid UFO sounds.
Reifferscheid: Without a doubt the best pipes of the evening – however, the decision to bank on them entirely, letting poor Jonsi onstage all alone, is a mistake. Yeah, the man’s got a great range, and yeah, he’s probably studied the craft of singing more than anyone else in this year’s edition (hints of Sinatra and more prominently Julio Iglesias shine through), but alas, one guy singing a schmaltzy ballad, even with a voice like that, counts as No Fun.
MacPherson: This is a rather staid ballad livened up by the singer's patented Stagger of Emotion - he can do it sideways, forwards, and - this is impressive stuff - backwards as well!
Linsdell: He sort of fell over.
MacPherson: And just look at the veins sticking out of his neck! I'm sure he's wearing lip gloss.
Linsdell: I like his hair. He is a blond Nicky Campbell.
Popper: Ooh, look at him! Lovely cheekbones. He's got my vote for buff hottie of the night. He does a fab impression of Deen too. "Music is vat I vant, music is vat I need..."
Mind Taker: Now this, this is the exact epitome of the type of excruciatingly shit Euro balladry that gives Eurovision a bad name. And if that wasn’t enough, it ends with a pompous look-Ma!-I’ve-got-feelings screechfest. The lowest point so far.
Oculicz: Restrained minimalism of the start gave away to horrible overwrought emoting and gesturing. They took the high road in the presentation - Jonsi looked almost fluorescent in the lighting, but it seemed to downplay his looks. The song didn't have anything behind the passion but that shouldn't have stopped it.
Passantino: Better than Sigur Ros, though.
CHRIS DORAN – If My World Stopped Turning
Popper: This song was written by an ex-member of Westlife and even he said it was crap.
Swygart: Chris here’s got some serious boy band nodding going down. His voice is the tone of Ronan Keating with the overbearing passion of Daniel O’Donnell. Not because they’re Irish, but because they’re shit.
Passantino: Our hero is dressed in the sort of jacket footballers get married in, and has legs far too thin for his body. Knowing who wrote it, you wait for the kick in on the chorus… yep, there it is. He’s even got four faceless backing dancers doing suitably Westlifey soulful gestures in the back.
Linsdell: At one point this guy winked, was on edge of seat waiting for him to twinkle shamrock-ly but alas no. Bryan McFadden co-wrote. It is not Girls Allowed.
BLUE CAFE – Love Song
Swygart: Dear God.
Smith: There is a man with long hair, tights and a guitar. There is a girl who thinks she’s got Anastacia’s voice. He is on his knees, pelvic thrusting at her.
Valladolid: According to the TVE speaker, they aspire to do "music with soul". That's not what Eurovision is for.
Popper: The wrong kind of 80s revival.
Passantino: Vocalist has no ability at all to keep up with the backing track, but, man, what a backing track. Horns, horns, horns, and horns, and then Chris Rea drops some yodelling on it.
MacPherson: The brass band are like those little nodding dogs that stupid people have in cars! My god, look at them go - it's very hypnotic, up, down, up, down. In a bid to reclaim the spotlight, the singer appears to be wearing a very small amount of see-through fabric with bits of masking tape stuck strategically on it, and she has an amazing arse.
Mind Taker: What the hell is this? Pop-rockin’ eastern bloc tango? I’m bewildered, but liking it more and more as it goes along. Engagingly bizarre kitsch, classy and vulgar in equally right measures.
Linsdell: Inspired by The 13th by the Cure, maybe, and Jack Osbourne is on trumpet, so great! (not actually very good really in reality in fact)
Oculicz: Being of Polish descent, this was deeply embarrassing.
JAMES FOX – Hold On To Our Love
Reifferscheid: Uhm, yeah, where did you guys drag up this non-entity again?
Smith: I’m not going to watch this, it’s going to be embarrassing.
MacPherson: He's pretty much the first balladeer this evening NOT to wear a white jacket, though given what he's wearing instead I think the white jacket might have been preferable.
Swygart: James’ suit is pale blue so he can camouflage himself in hospitals.
Mind Taker: Look, if you’re not going to take this Eurosong thing seriously, at least send us something amusing next time. We don’t care if it’s bad: we know you consider Keane and Jamie Cullum to be “good”, we don’t expect much…
Popper: I must admit I was quite the Fame Academy fanatic and have a soft spot for our James. He's very professional and I'm sure mums from Reykjavik to Moscow were swooning.
Swygart: Mum likes this, but not as much as the Irish one.
Passantino: Absolutely devoid of any passion, excitement, or interest, bound for failure, Wogan continues to praise it, why have we got a man with no knowledge at all of contemporary music shoring it and falsely praising the crap we shuttle off into it?
Oculicz: James Fox is a dickhead, because he went on about how his was a good proper song that didn't need a circus behind him, referring to Ukraine. Well, if you're going to be a bloody rockist, James, please note that Ruslana actually wrote her own song, unlike you. And hers was exciting and original. The UK is so arrogant, they think that Eurovision is beneath them, so they send a mid-tempo toe-tapper. Their conceit is misplaced, because a big stomping pop hit beats a stodgy twang from a balding busker every time. Yes, many of the more audacious attempts don't work, but you have to take risks, and this is safe and inoffensive, and in the context of a competition celebrating the ridiculous, its selection is deeply offensive.
For reference’s sake: James Fox has been going on about his deal with Sony and his album and so forth. The last time a UK Eurovision act went on to have a follow-up single enter the chart was Precious (girl-band featuring Jenny Frost out of Atomic Kitten) in 1999. Their song ‘Say It Again’ was also the last UK Eurovision song to chart in the UK Top 10.
LISA ANDREAS – Stronger Every Minute
Swygart: The crowd is well into this, possibly the most they’ve been since dear old Ruslana.
Mind Taker: Disney-friendly ballad. Not entirely unbearable.
MacPherson: She's nervy - she's grappling desperately with the tune - she's holding on - she's nearly got it under control - ah - dammit, there it goes, slipping way out of tune, and she can't get it back.
Valladolid: This is of course another favourite, a timeless ballad in The Carpenters vein. They clearly want to make a difference by making it as intimate as they can, but actually this could have been better with some glittery 70's backing band.
Oculicz: A vulnerable, winning performance, ably disguising the rather unremarkable song underneath.
Popper: I feel I should support her for being English but Lisa and her song are both far too annoying, and her outfit is quite clearly from New Look.
ATHENA – For Real
Swygart: Here’s some ska punks, and Mum announces that she “loves this kind of music”. And sure, it’s fair enough, then singer boy opens his mush and he’s… umm, what is he playing at? No, mum doesn’t like it now.
Oculicz: A bit of a mess, but at least sonically exciting. Not to say I liked it, I thought it was shit.
MacPherson: They don't want to host this thing next year, do they?
Reifferscheid: Even for me, knowing next to nothing about ‘em, the tension of a culture clash is palpable, and the glee with which this Ska-Rock group takes advantage of this situation (especially the lead singer!) brings a big-ass smile to my face, even if the tune is as pedestrian for its genre as most of the other entries were for theirs.
Linsdell: Burly ginger-guy euro-ska crowdpleaser scrabbling around to condense every popular musical reference of the last 12 months into three minutes and OH a TROMBONE and yet somehow despite all the energy and the madcap bonkers zany everythingness of this I am so fucking bored but it's alright, really.
Smith: Listen to them try to do ska punk. I wonder if anyone from NOFX or The Mad Caddies is watching this and gently weeping. This is like lipstick lesbianism. And Avid Merrion is the singer, wearing tartan trousers and a CND jacket. Oh my God, it’s like ANARCHY!!!!!
Oculicz: Punk was shit, and this sounds like a Madness tribute band covering a Rachel Stevens album track.
Smith: If this gets even one vote, I say nuke Europe.
SANDA LADUSI – I Admit
Swygart: Shakira goes beyond Thunderdome. Rubbishly.
Popper: Britney's tuneless Romanian great aunt. So not really anything like Britney at all. She can only dream.
Smith: There’s a half-naked, all-ugly woman here. More wine is required.
Valladolid: The beginning is very, very promising, but then it's kind of boring.
MacPherson: Did Terry really say the word 'porn' in his introduction?! I didn't hear that properly. Oh - judging by the amount of clothes on the stage, it's probably fair to assume that he DID say 'porn'. Her hair transfixes me, though not as much as the shirtless man gyrating all over her. There has been a disappointing lack of eye candy thus far, but he goes some way to making up for it.
Mind Taker: Skittery, bouncy R&B; beats, yeah yeah, yawn, how passe - but, wait… the chorus! It’s great! It’s totally GREAT!! And it’s repeated a lot of times, and I’m sad when it ends coz I was just getting into the groove and now I’m cut off and I won’t hear any of it again coz no-one’s gonna vote for it, grrrrrrrr!
Linsdell: Increasingly aware that in many respects this has been the boringest Eurovision for several years (notes scarcely readable at this stage and very uninspired, sorry).
Reifferscheid: A good lawyer was lost on this woman, you know.
LENA PHILIPSSON – It Hurts
Swygart: Diva disco! Disco diva! Disco dolly! Dolly mixtures!
Reifferscheid: Want me to teach you how to say, “would you like a mint” in Swedish? “Vil du ha en mintablett”. You’re welcome.
Popper: Sweden has produced some of the best Eurovision entries and are one of the best countries in the world for pure pop music. This is a very nice, catchy, poppy song, but I thought Lena was trying a bit too hard and had a touch of Victoria Beckham about her.
Valladolid: The chorus is not as memorable as it could have been, which is bad for a song intended to be a disco anthem, but it does show how seriously Sweden takes Eurovision.
Mind Taker: It’s just competent Swede disco-pop. Still, “just competent” Swede disco-pop is good enough Swede disco-pop for me.
Smith: Awful song, awful voice, amazing legs. They are comfortably longer than the rest of the contestants put together.
MacPherson: She's pole dancing with the microphone stand! Apparently this song was about anal sex, but I didn't notice at the time, which is a shame.
Oculicz: A smashing bit of frothy disco pop from Posh's Naughty Mum. Much will be made of her saucy dancing, but the sexiest bit was her come-hither eyebrow raising. Excellent song, excellent performance, showing why Sweden's so dependable in bringing The Pop to the table.
Valladolid: The girl looks as gorgeous as only a dark haired Swedish girl can.
Smith: She looks exactly like Helena Christensen. Apparently she’s 38 but looks nowhere near that. I’m moving to Sweden.
Passantino: Big gay diva tune with la la las and a coquettish MILF vocalist giving it something on the “I will survive” tip. A good place to end, because that’s basically what the Eurovision is all about.
Linsdell: Aaaaaaaand.... relax.
And so, Stylus’ top 5:
UKRAINE: 101 Points
SWEDEN: 74 Points
ALBANIA: 52 Points
MALTA: 51 Points
GREECE: 37 Points
In the interval between the performances and the voting, there’s some Turkish people doing Riverdance. Perhaps this is meant to be a melange of previous halftime shows from Eurovision. I sit and await the Aqua medley from when Denmark hosted it. It never comes. A pity.
We then move on to the voting portion of the evening, where the various representatives of the various countries announce who their public has decided to give their points to. The system is the one we adopted – 12 points for the most popular song, 10 for the second most popular, then from 8 down to 1 for the third through to tenth most popular entries.
Sertab has been sent backstage to prowl around the Green Room. Sertab is quite clearly off her pips. She opens by slurring “Hello, I am in the Green Room… Hello, Green Room!”
Oculicz: I am going to address every room I walk into, just like Sertab.
"I am in the kitchen! Hello kitchen!"
"Now I am in the living room! Hello living room!"
Highlights of the interviews include Sertab and Ruslana (of the Ukraine) seeming to eye each other up a bit, and the singer of this year’s Turkish entry belching “PEACE, LAAAHVE AND RESPEHHHHCT,” just like a real live ska-punker.
We are then treated to the reading out of the results of the voting in the 36 participating countries (all of tonight’s entrances plus the 12 countries that were disposed of in the semi-final stages). Notable features of the voting this year included: Russia feeling the need to remind us one more time of how much bigger they are than everyone else; some cocky shit from Latvia dissing Turkey for failing to qualify for Euro 2004, and then comparing wee Lisa Andreas to Barbra Streisand; Sweden saying “We love this competition so much that It Hurts,” with the kind of facial expression that could only be worn by a man who has realised that his pun would only have worked had his country’s song still had a chance of winning; and Terry Wogan complaining about how empty the UK’s backdrop of Old Compton Street looked by comparison to the massed crowds that were in attendance everywhere else in Europe, neglecting to remember that the BBC had specifically pre-recorded the footage of the backdrop in order to avoid getting the kind of massed crowds that were in attendance everywhere else in Europe.
But of course, the most important thing that happened in the voting was that we got our actual winner, and, hate to say we told you so, but (bearing in mind Eurovision votes are compiled of scores from 36 juries, and ours were compiled by ten or so):
UKRAINE: 280 Points
SERBIA & MONTENEGRO: 263 Points
GREECE: 252 Points
TURKEY: 195 Points
CYPRUS & SWEDEN (tied): 170 Points
Eh, three out of six is alright, innit.
Smith: Well, the voting was a disappointment. At least the UK entry got what it deserved. For what it’s worth I wanted the Greek song to win. The French did far worse than it should have. And how did Turkey get that many votes? Arm the Cruises, Dubya…
Linsdell: Macedonia were brilliant and yet no one else sees it. Ah well.
Oculicz: The political voting might deserve booing, but perhaps it's really just a result of cross-pollenisation - Norway's charts would certainly have a lot of Swedish pop in it, and Cyprus would get overloaded by Greece culturally. The complainants who deride this sort of friendly voting aren't likely to be able to suggest a solution, so it's a waste of time. Besides which, you learn more about countries' relationships inside the continent than you do watching the news by watching, making Eurovision the grand trio of questionable televisual virtues: cheap, tacky AND educational.
Mind Taker: The final top 5 is all Eastern Europe! More charitable reading would suggest that this proves the unstoppable might of the Arabic pop-continuum. More cynical reading would suggest that, now that all of the ex-Yugoslavian republics and almost all of the ex-USSR republics are competing, they rule the roast coz the voting bit is the same as it ever was – neighbouring countries high-five each other (Denmark gives 12 points to Sweden, Norway gives 12 points to Sweden, Monaco to France, Belarus to Russia, Russia to Ukraine, etc etc…), and there’s so many of them ex-YU/USSR buggers that they propel themselves to the top by default via mutual back-slapping. That possibility makes me sad. On the other hand, Albania got to no.7 not on the strength of sympathy points, but coz they got A LOT of votes from all over the Europe, and slowly but steadily crawled their way upwards. And what REALLY made me smile was when Croatia gave 12 points to Serbia & Montenegro! It’s true that despite rampant (and in parts understandable, after all there was a bloody war over here ten years ago) xenophobia, Serbian pop kept on having huuuge cult following in Croatia… But, when sympathies towards Serbia are expressed in the context of Eurosong, at the moment when so many people on both sides of the border are all watching the same thing - it gives me hope for the future of this godforsaken part of the globe.
And so Ukraine were crowned the champions of Europe, as a sulking Terry Wogan, who had earlier proclaimed that all the songs were ‘crap’ with the exception of James Fox, says the Eurovision song contest has turned into the Eurovision Dance contest. Terry reckons it was all political, what with Ukraine picking up 12 points off their traditional allies & neighbours Israel, Iceland and Turkey. Terry didn’t seem to spot the UK being the only country that gave Ireland any points and Ireland being the only country that gave the UK more than 4 points, though.
But there’s only room for one leathery old smoothie tonight, and that’s Ruslana, who celebrates her Eurovision triumph in traditional style by getting lost on the way to the stage. The hosts are forced to ad-lib furiously – “Ukraine… is trying to come to the stage… but it is not easy!” – until five minutes later the Carpathian horde finally descend, and Sertab comes on in a gigantic white frock to present them with the trophy. Only thing is, Sertab’s wearing heels, and someone’s done a bit of the stage in a cattle-grid fashion. Sertab’s heels promptly get stuck in it. Finally, however, the trophy is handed over, pecks on the cheek are exchanged, and the glory is complete:
”Wild Dances” is reprised once more as the credits roll, and we stumble away to bed to be greeted the next morning by media moanings of how it is all political and a farce and not about ‘proper music’ by ‘proper musicians’ wearing blazers of a nice, neutral colour that goes with the flowers (special mention to Scotland’s Daily Record for coming up with ‘EUROVISION SEX CONTEST’). We then contemplate the possibility that the only rap record Terry Wogan has ever professed a liking for is ‘Love City Groove’, the UK’s entry from 1995.
See you next year.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-05-24