I’ve just watched this year’s “Eurovision Song Contest”, and in some respects it reminds me of ABBA’s win in 1974. Not that there’s any musical similarity between “Waterloo” and the heavy-rock number from Finland that took out this year’s award. Rather it was the spirit of experimentation with the norms of Eurovision that links the two, and which was a characteristic of this year’s contest. After years of mostly similar sounding songs, that kinda Middle Eastern dance rhythm summed up by “Kiss Kiss”, this year marked a significant departure, though there were still a few songs in that vein.
For the last seven or eight years I’ve hosted a regular Eurovision Party (with the exceptions being my years in Darwin and Perth), and I missed out again this year, due to the absence of five regular guests (two in London and three in Melbourne) out of the normal ten or so guests. Although I looked around the net for a fun place to go out, I decided to stay at home and dance around the house in a white t-shirt and tighty-whities (ala Tom Cruise in “Risky Business”).
From the opening moment when the Will & Grace look-a-like “flew” onto the stage, you just new this year was going to be good. Greece had experienced a couple of exciting years, winning Eurovision last year, and hosting the Olympics two years ago, so you just new they’d go to all stops to make sure it was a great contest. Grace, by the way, only had one adverb in her vocabulary, amazing.
This year’s contest also featured a couple of minor stars. One-hit-wonders, Las Ketchup (who had a hit a couple of years ago with “The Ketchup Song) were there to represent Spain with a fairly forgettable number. And Andreas from Swedish band, Alcazar, was part of a group representing Switzerland with a 1970s-style Eurovision sing-a-long number. He wasn’t the only one to swap borders, though, with a suprising number of African-Americans representing Israel.
The spunk factor was limited, this year, to the bloke from Russia. Although the song, “Never Let You Go”, was quite good, he wasn’t really my type. A little too skinny, he kinda reminded me of one of those rejects from “Big Brother”. Oh and the English backing singers for the Turkish entrant – who I’m not entirely convinced was born a woman – were easy on the eye too. And the song was pretty good, reminiscent of Donna Summer in some ways.
But did I have a favourite? Not really. However, I thought Bosnia-Herzegovina was quite good, with great music and a stirring lyric. I liked Romania’s entry which had a late 90s dance party feel about it. And I quite enjoyed Croatia for their Irish-Greek mash-up, though I did feel a little sorry for the lead singer who had that eyes in the carlights look about her. And in a traditional Eurovison kind of way, I liked Brian Kennedy representing Ireland.
But what I liked most about this year was the degree of experimentation. For example, Germany’s decision to go with a very catch country song, Latvia’s decision to go with a Housemartin’s style a’capella number, the UK’s white rapper, Lithuana’s “football chant” called – don’t fall over backwards – “We are the winners of Eurovision” and of course Finland’s very wise decision to go with a heavy rock number. Either this means, musically the contest is evolving, or finally that Europe has gotten the joke. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain Finland’s win: people thought “Oh fuck it, it’s all crap, so let’s just vote for the ones who’ve taken the biggest risk”. The only problem will be that for the next two years every country will be putting up a rock number.
And the prize for “Best Voting” goes to the Dutch bloke who flirted outrageously with the male host, and observed, quite rightly, the hosts looked like “Will & Grace”.
I’m looking forward to Finland hosting it next year, as I have fond memories of visiting Helsinki and it will be great to see those beautiful streets and waterways. But as for this year? Ok, so Greece has done it with the Olympics, and now with Eurovision, and I see that Demis Roussos is coming to Australia for his fortieth anniversary tour, but let’s wish them all the worst of luck for this week’s friendly match in Melbourne against the Socceroos in the run up to the World Cup.