Eurovision 2016

I decided not to get up and watch the Eurovision final live this year. I was at a semi-final party until late last night, so I slept in. We all know who won but I’m still going to do my review thing, because why not?

I’ll be adding some commentary on the on the acts that didn’t get through the second  semi-final when I have a minute, but here we go!

What has Julia done with her hair?

Right, a woman dressed in platonic solids, that makes sense.

And an octopus man.

And an elephant man.

And a semi-naked Finn the Human.

Apparently they’re all made of paper, that’s clever, but no excuse!

They must have a bunch of spare battery packs for Bulgaria. She’s lit up like a lighthouse in every single shot.

Belgium: Well they’re certainly enthusiastic. And very 90s. Not a great song, but the presentation is very Eurovision. Not hardcore Eurovision, I mean they don’t have any piano-centaurs or holographic wolves, but there’s plenty of cheese. 3/5, mostly for enthusiasm.

Czech Republic: All white costume! Drink! Competent, yet dull, so far. Hmmm, it’s growing on me a bit. Hair change! Drink! Not bad overall. 3/5

Netherlands: A protest song against modern life apparently. With ten seconds of silence for people to do whatever they want. Giant clock! Oo! He’s playing an instrument! And they’ve actually got a band on stage. Inoffensive, middle of the road pop-country. Looking dead into the camera and mouthing “I love you” – extremely creepy, you lose points for that! 2.5/5

Azerbaijan: Golden microphone and body stocking and lots of fire. I presume the song will kick it up a notch in a second. Ah, there we go! Extras from Buck Rogers dancing against a background of flying Zome. OK, but nothing amazing. 2.5/5

Hungary: There’s whistling apparently. Big drum! Drink! Those eyebrows are quite something aren’t they? Ah, backup whistlers. That’s an unusual choice. And now they’re doing aerobics. Musically it just sounds like a not particularly good Live cover band. Drum guy’s lost his mind. Seriously, what’s the deal with asymmetric shirts? 2/5

Ad break! Time for a semi-final review!

Switzerland: All I can remember is that she had a transparent skirt and was bobbing up and down in a fashion that may have been intended to look like she was skiing, but actually just made her look constipated. Not great, not great at all…

Belarus: This act was everything Eurovision should be! Weird face paint, nudity, holographic wolves, performing with multiple holographic versions of yourself. It’s a crime that this didn’t get through!

And we’re back!

Italy: From what I’ve seen this is just weird. Hey! It’s in Italian! The staging is strange, but the song’s not bad. Could do with a bit more tune. Are sparkly overalls the next fashion trend, or is it a tie in to the agricultural theme? Best so far I think! 3.5/5

Israel: Ah, the Robert Smith/Boy George hybrid. A giant sparkly Zome face! And here comes the hula hoop! The hula hoop is silly, but it’s a pretty good song – even if it is cribbing from… can’t quite place it, but there’s another song it’s grabbing a bit from. Something 80’s I think. 4/5!

Bulgaria: Ah yes! the girl with the light up suit and wobbly knees! I actually snorted with laughter when she started dancing the first time. It’s a passable dance song, but it needs a better chorus. Nonetheless she’s singing bits in Bulgarian, she’s wearing a cape and her costume lights up, so 3.5/5!

Another ad break…

Ireland: Was this guy in Boyzone, or does he just like look like he was in Boyzone? Anyway it was an adequate song sung by a guy in a weird jacket, but nothing much to write home about.

Macedonia: Dona Dona Dona. Dona. Dona Dona. A great voice, but the song was sub par. And that costume wasn’t doing her any favours.

Back to it!

Sweden: The local boy. Well this is a whole load o’ nuthin. Ah! here we go. His muttering is easier to put up with with some musical backing, but still not great. Relying a bit too heavily on the teen hearthrob factor I think. 2.5/5 and I’m not sorry.

Germany: This girl appears to be a big fan of Japan. And insane. Let’s see… Big moon! Apparently she’s the Queen of Mirkwood. A good dose of Eurovision weirdness, but the song isn’t doing much for me. Great voice though. 3/5

France: What’s the bet that this will be entirely in French? Apparently he’s a former dental surgeon. A former dental surgeon flying through space. Sacré bleu! There’s English bits! Somewhat catchy dance track. 3/5

Poland: Jon Snow in Michael Jackson’s jacket asking the same question that the Scatman asked much better 20 years ago (you know nothing Michał Szpak). That said, it’s a better song than some of the others we’ve seen tonight. 2.5/5

Australia: Hooray! Our first proper Eurovision contestant! And she’s sitting on a box, manipulating holograms. The songwriters really went for epic with this one didn’t they? She’s pulling it off though. You can call me biased, but I honestly think it’s one of the best songs of the night, and an excellent performance of it. 4/5

(Don’t worry, I have no doubt we’ll send something awful next year)

Cyprus: It’s a band! Holy crap, that’s an opening. Are they in cages for stealing their riff from Midnight Oil? Decent performance, but it’s not a great song. Ahh! Demon wolves! And now the lead singer’s possessed! Is that even legal? 2/5

Serbia: An issues song, which makes me feel kind of guilty for trying to mock it. Very gothy. Are the backup singers dressed in shredded garbage bags? And what’s with that hair? Key change! Drink! OK song, great voice! 3/5

Lithuania: Oh yeah, this guy. I wasn’t impressed in the semi-final. His singing seems out of synch with the music. And is he meant to be some kind of ice-bender? Or a snow golem? That spin was kind of cool mind you. Costume change! Drink! You know, this is actually a bit better than I remebered – his enthusiasm is carrying it. 3/5

Croatia: Woah. That is one crazy dress! Ow, she seems a bit flat. Costume change! Drink! She really does seem off key. 2.5/5 (would have been 3 if she was on tune).

Russia: The favourite! Shame they invaded Ukraine isn’t it? Wings! Woah! Big on effects. Tempo change? Magic stairs. Gravity defiance! Oh now this is just getting silly! Not a bad song, but I think everyone has been dazzled by the effects. 3/5

Ad break…

Slovenia: I can’t actually recall anything about Slovenia. To the YouTubes! Oh yeah! Her! If YouTube ever bloody loads I might be able to remember something about the song.

I guess not. Back again.

Spain: Silver sports dress? A bit sparse so far. OK, kicking in a bit now. More crazy knee dancing, guess that must be in at the moment. There’s a decent dance track in there, but it’s all a bit too busy for it to gel. There’s two of them now, like I said, too busy. 2.5/5

Latvia: Sounds a bit off key. OK, he seems to have recovered. A bit dull isn’t it? Strong voice, but not a lot going on. Singer falls to knees! Drink! 2.5/5

Ukraine: The song Russia didn’t want them to play! Another issues song really. Musically not my cup of tea, although the traditional bit in the middle is great. 3/5

Malta: Are we back in the club in 1994? Ah! Giant face! Psychotic gymnast! Drink! Not much to write home about here I have to say. 2/5

Another ad break, let’s try again…

Slovenia: Oh yeah, I really liked this! Uptempo banjos and prolonged la-las. The guy swinging around on the pole is a bit much, but it’s a real shame this didn’t get through to the final.

Back to the show!

Georgia: It’s good to see another actual band participating, but their song really isn’t very good is it? And someone should tell that guitarist that Oasis broke up years ago. Does dropping to your knees to fiddle with the effects peddles count for a drink? 2/5

Austria: In French. Sweet and inoffensive. Frank L. Baum may want to have a word with them about the effects. Wind machine! Drink! 3/5

United Kingdom: Oh, this is always a gamble. The UK tries so hard that they often kick an own goal, but let’s see. Is that guitar making the sound of a piano? Now, you see this is decent. No gimmicks, no trying to game the system, just some guys singing a halfway decent song. They’ll probably still get voted to oblivion, but at least the UK can hold their heads up this year. 3.5/5

Armenia: Oh dear, talking. Swimsuit and a cape, OK, there’s gonna be a wind machine in this isn’t there? Oh this is not good at all is it? Even the holograms can’t save it. Is she singing a completely different song to the music? 2/5

And that’s it! Time for the interval, featuring Justin Timberlake for some reason. But back to the semi-final…

Denmark: Actually pretty good for a boy band song. Quite catchy. Although what’s with the sleeves on the guy on the left?

Norway: Seemed a bit off key, and full of weird tempo changes. Interesting, but not smart.

Albania: Finally Albania, who looked like she’d fallen into a vat of molten copper. Seriously guys, cut back on the bronzer! But not a bad song overall.

You know, it’s already 10:00pm, we know who won and I have to go to work tomorrow. I think I’ll give the whole voting rigmarole a miss this year (I can always check it out on YouTube tomorrow).

Well done Ukraine! Next year in Kiev!

Eurovision 2015. Why are we here again?

So, it’s 2:55 in the morning, and rather than being tucked up nice and warm in bed I’m sitting here huddled under my doona watching SBS. Why you ask? Because it’s Eurovision! And not only is Australia in the contest for the first (and let’s face it, probably last) time ever, we can vote for the first time ever! There’s no way I’d miss this!

I haven’t researched any of the acts and I missed the semi-finals, so I’m going in completely cold. The only song I’ve heard is Guy Sebastian’s one (you can’t get away from it) and while there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s certainly not any kind of stand-out. So, let’s see (or hear) what’s to be seen (or heard).

My standard rating system will apply. A score of 1 to 5 (or 0 to 5 for particularly heinous atrocities) with an extra point for anyone who doesn’t sell out their cultural heritage by singing in English. Here we go!

Good lord there are some weird ads on at 3:00am!

Ah Beethoven! That’s some class at least.

Good morning Julia! And that other guy.

Building bridges eh?

Oo! A mysterious object! I could be mean and insensitive here, but I won’t be.

Ah, a tribute to Udo Jürgens. That’s nice.

A drag queen rising out of the floor. Could you get any more Eurovision?

Miming hosts. Classy.

I was wrong. A flying drag queen is much more Eurovision than one simply rising out of the floor.

Ah. Singing children. I know they’re the Vienna Boy’s Choir, but anyone playing Eurovision bingo has just got a free square.

And a rapper. This just gets better and better!

It’s the Olympics!

Hehe! Big cheer for Australia 🙂

Is that Celine Dion for Greece?

You know, it’s naff as hell, but occasionally Eurovision does provide a little bit of that everyone getting together and celebrating their countries in peace and brotherhood feel that it was actually founded for.

Hello!

Seems to be some heckling. Or possibly some geese have snuck into the hall?

1 Slovenia: Maraaya – Here For You
It’s headphones ago-ago from Slovenia! Oh wow, she’s nasal isn’t she? And someone in the background is attempting to channel Peter Garret. Seems like an OK song, but nothing to really write home about. Ah, the dancer is now doing nothing but air violin. Flashy lights! No wonder the dancer was having a seizure. A decent effort. 3/5

2 France: Lisa Angell – N’oubliez Pas
Ah France! You can always rely on France to sing in le français rather than selling out and going with English. A ruined post-war scene. That’s cheerful. Looks like we’re getting the standard political stuff early. Oo! Doves! Shoot them for food children! Hmmm, this ain’t bad really. International Rescue on drums! That’s a neat way to get around the restriction on performer numbers. Three out of five, plus one for singing in French. 4/5

3 Israel: Nadav Guedj – Golden Boy
It’s N*Sync! Extra points for some Middle Eastern grooves. Minus points for “Before I leave let me show you Tel Aviv”, and gratuitous crotch thrusting. Key change! OK, I guess. 2.5/5

 4 Estonia: Elina Born & Stig Rästa – Goodbye To Yesterday
I will happily support any act that contains someone named “Stig”. An instrument?! Played by a singer?! In Eurovision?! Oo, off key! Fake shadows! Inoffensive. 2.5/5

5 United Kingdom: Electro Velvet – Still In Love With You
The UK has a terrible habit of trying way too hard to win Eurovision, and then tripping over their own feet. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the horror that was Scooch. Let’s see if they can do any better this time around… Hmmm, going retro I see. Light up suits! And break dancing! And scat! I don’t think her voice is really carrying it. Actually not a bad effort given past attempts. 2.5 plus 1 for singing in English. 3.5/5

6 Armenia: Genealogy – Face The Shadow
Genealogy eh? If there’s not a genetic inheritance diagram somewhere in this performance, I shall be deeply disappointed. Operatic! With people wandering around moodily. Apparently one of them is Australian. Ah, there we go, kicking in a bit. Hmmm, a bit too complex really. Would probably be decent if there were less singers. Continents do not count as inheritance diagrams! 2.5/5

 7 Lithuania: Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila – This Time
Now this seems to have some potential. And some banjo. Oo! Controversial kissing! You know, if the music was mixed better I think this could be a pretty good song. Best so far! 4/5

8 Serbia: Bojana Stamenov – Beauty Never Lies
“Beauty Never Lies”. Channeling Keats are we? To quote the great Terry Wogan, she’s a well set up lump of a girl. Spooky masks! And posing! This isn’t half bad. Costume change! Mark off your bingo cards! Hipster! They’ve got a hipster!  Not bad! 3.5/5

9 Norway: Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me
Monster eh? Maybe it’s a Lordi rip off! Hmmm, maybe not. Maybe Lorde though. Very moody. Ah, there’s the drums! Certainly the best duet so far. 4/5

 10 Sweden: Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes
It would be nice if this was the Bowie song, but Eurovision rules prevent it. Stick people! Clever effects! Here comes the drop… hmmm, a bit repetitive. Could use a bit more base. Ah! Big scary face! Pretty good 4/5

11 Cyprus: John Karayiannis – One Thing I Should Have Done
It’s Elvis Costello! For a ballad this is surprisingly good. I wonder if it’ll kick in? Apparently not – brave decision! Reminds me of that song by that band from years ago. What was it? More than Words, that’s it! Simple, but really good! 4.5/5

 12 Australia: Guy Sebastian – Tonight Again
Well here we go! Hooray, hooray, Aussie Aussie Aussie and so forth. Let’s hope Guy doesn’t embarrass us. You know, say what you like about Guy Sebastian, but he has a hell of a voice. Another hipster! And street lamps, for some reason. This is actually a pretty good track, it has a good beat, and the build up to the chorus is particularly clever. Maybe we have a chance? 4.5/5

13 Belgium: Loïc Nottet – Rhythm Inside
Plucky little Belgium. Performers all in white, tick off another bingo square! Not bad so far. What is with that dancing? Sparse, but catchy. I like it! 4/5

14 Austria: The Makemakes – I Am Yours
I presume this group have named themselves after the dwarf planet, rather than the chief god of the bird man cult of Rapa Nui. Although in Eurovision land, who knows? Actual instruments! This is pretty good. Ah! FIRE!! FIRE!! Your piano is on fire!! What are you doing!? Don’t keep playing man! RUN!! 4.5/5

All these good tracks! I may have to recalibrate my rating system…

15 Greece: Maria Elena Kyriakou – One Last Breath
Greece has a history of rather bland entries that nonetheless do rather well. Lets’ see. Is that a Stargate? Is that Celine Dion? Ah, the reliable old piano ballad. Evanescence light. I said it’d be bland didn’t I? The Stargate opens and there’s a key change! Ended better than it started, but still pretty meh. 3/5

16 Montenegro: Knez – Adio
Finally! A non-English song that isn’t from France! Extra points for the Montenegrans! Stars and violins. Nice beat. Frozen dancers. Now this is what Eurovision should be about! Ethnic influenced music and completely incomprehensible lyrics! Moody and dark. I like it! Folk dancing! 4.5/5

17 Germany: Ann Sophie – Black Smoke
Germany is usually good value. Searchlights? This is well sung, but kind of bland. 3/5

18 Poland: Monika Kuszyńska – In The Name Of Love
Sadly not a U2 cover. A white piano! Keep ticking off those boxes bingo fans! I wonder if it’ll catch on fire? A bit bland. Is that archive footage from before her accident? I can’t decide if that’s inspiring, morbid or simply exploitative. Nothing special here I’m afraid. 3/5

19 Latvia: Aminata – Love Injected
Do they have potato? A giant red, structural dress. OK. Woah, that’s one hell of a voice! Now, this is also what Eurovision is about – incomprehensible weirdness and hand dancing. 4/5

20 Romania: Voltaj – De La Capat/All Over Again
Nice try Romania, but if you want bonus points from me, you need to sing the whole damn thing in your native tongue! Although you do score a few points for having Ming the Merciless as your lead singer. This isn’t bad. Reminds me of U2 a bit. Nice. 4.5/5

21 Spain: Edurne – Amanecer
Fully non-English. Huzzah! You know, there’s not enough wizard robes in Eurovision this year. I notice hers is red, marking her as neutral, although she needs more fake tan to cosplay as Raistlin. Oo! Costume change! You know, I quite enjoyed that! 4.5/5

22 Hungary: Boggie – Wars For Nothing
It’s a tradition in Eurovision for someone to sing a song about how horrible war is, and how we should all just get along. It will probably be in poorly phrased English too. Oo! A gun tree! Hmmm, pretty much what you’d expect. Good message, dull song. 2.5/5

23 Georgia: Nina Sublatti – Warrior
Well, at least someone is channeling Lordi. Lightning and shoulder pads! So much smoke you can hardly see her! Hilarious! I never thought I’d say this, but she could do with some backup dancers or something. Just standing there in the middle of the stage is kind of boring. Giant eyes! Interesting attempt, but not ultimately successful. 3.5/5

24 Azerbaijan: Elnur Huseynov – Hour Of The Wolf
By this point in the contest we’re all looking at the clock, and hoping that something will happen to cancel the remaining acts so we can get the voting over and done with. Having them eaten by wolves would be something of a mercy. Ah, now this is more like Eurovision! Guy sings ballad while couple in weird costumes cavort about the stage. Nothing special, but nothing terrible. 3/5

25 Russia: Polina Gagarina – A Million Voices
After last year’s boo-ing it’s probably only to be expected that Russia would try for something positive and uniting. Of course it’s just as likely that the million voices are those of pro-Putin trolls on the FSB payroll. Here in the background we see the black hole of Russia, sucking in human rights and democracy! Good song though! 4/5

26 Albania: Elhaida Dani – I’m Alive
This late in the show it’s amazing that anyone’s alive. Hmmm, this is OK, but nothing stunning. 3/5

27 Italy: Il Volo – Grande Amore
And finally, plucky little Italy brings it home with the fourth of the night’s non-English songs (I’m still counting you out Romania!). Winners of the San Remo song contest. Ah, they seem to be one of those pop-opera groups I find so annoying. Horses! Why have actual smoke on stage when you can put in on the screen? Competent, but nothing really special. 3.5/5

So that’s that then! Now, who am I going to vote for…

OK, after much thought I’ve decided that I enjoyed Romania the most, even though they didn’t stick to Romanian. I could cheat and vote multiple times, but I won’t. Eurovision voting is a sacred trust!

So, that’s the songs done with! Now we get the traditionally naff performance that takes up the voting period. What will it be this year? Dancers? Views of the Alps? Singing frogs? (I’m looking at you Greece!). Ah, it’s drums! They’re pretty good.

Bridges! They’re bridges! Amazing!

That guy with the sledgehammer looks like a happy chappy.

Is that the theme from Dallas?

And Conchita returns while they tally the votes.

OK, let’s do this! It would be nice if Australia won – the novelty factor combined with our political neutrality and a pretty decent song give us a chance – but I’m not holding my breath. Russia could well romp it in.

Arrgh! I don’t know how much longer I can stay awake!

Well, Italy’s doing well.

Suzy! Get your act together!

Looks like a three horse race between Italy, Russian and Sweden.

Get on with it Azerbaijan!

We seem to be getting votes from most countries. Good!

Estonia! You’re letting the side down!

Eight points! Thank you Denmark! I wonder how many of those came from the royal palace?

And another eight from Switzerland! Was that you Matt? ;D

Woohoo! Twelve from Sweden! Thank you! 😀

Ah, it’s Lee Lin Chin.

Twelve from Austria! I wonder if some Austrians got confused? 🙂

Thanks Hungary! Eight points!

Thanks Nigella! Ten points from the UK!

Get it together Georgia!

Eight points from the Netherlands! Thanks!

And another Eight from Poland! Thank you!

Looks like it’s going to be between Sweden and Russia.

San Marino gets a vote? Cool! And they gave the UK some much needed points. And another eight for us, thanks!

Sweden probably has it, but Russia is still in it with a chance!

Thanks Iceland! Eight points.

Well there we are! Sweden! What did they sing again? Oh, the stick figures and the big scary face! Well done!

Ten points from Norway! Thank you!

Portugal again.

Estonia again.

Georgia again.

And there we go! Sweden wins, Australia comes fifth. I’m happy with that! And now I’m going back to bed! Goodnight all! 🙂

And Here’s Another Thing

In a follow up to yesterday’s surprising Eurovision news, there’s a petition begging TISM to reform and represent Australia in Vienna.

Naturally I have signed it. Can you watch this performance, and dare to claim that TISM would not fit right in in Eurovision?

Of course they couldn’t perform any of their classic tracks, one of the rules being that songs cannot have been commercially released prior to competing, but I’m sure they could whip something appropriate up. In any case a song like I Might be a C**t, But I’m not a F**king C***t would probably give Europe a collective stroke.

We’ll see, we’ll see…

Well, Here’s a Thing

Apparently, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest and the fact that a lot of Aussies (including myself) watch it, Australia is going to compete in this year’s contest!

We get automatic entry into the final (along with all the usual suspects) and – assuming that they can figure out how to do it in a sensible fashion given the time difference – we’ll get to vote! In the event that we win (not entirely impossible given the huge novelty factor) next year’s contest will be held somewhere in Europe with heavy Australian involvement. It’s also the only way we’ll get to compete in 2016 – if we don’t win then it’s a one-off.

This is going to be interesting…

Of course I can hardly mention this without posting the greatest Eurovision song never to be entered in Eurovision.

They really must lose that sax solo.

Musical Tuesday – A Song for Europe

Well, today was the Melbourne Cup, the horse race that both proverbially and allegedly stops a nation. Woohoo.

I’ve never really been a fan of the Cup. I’m a contrarian by nature – if someone tells me that everyone does something I’ll tend not to do it, specifically to be a counter-example – so I’ve always reacted to being told that the Cup stops a nation by saying “Well it doesn’t stop me!” and ignoring it. I’m also not big on horse racing because of the animal welfare issues. I’m not a member of PETA or anything, and I eat plenty of meat, but racing somehow seems to be pushing our treatment of animals a bit far. I’ve also got a streak of puritanism deep in my soul, which pops up at unexpected moments to condemn things like gambling as wicked – so Melbourne Cup day has never held much attraction for me.

Of course working in an office environment makes such iconoclasm difficult, and heading off to a pub to watch the race at least provided a free lunch and 90 minutes or so of not-working. So I went along with it. I was also talked into placing a $2 bet, which I put down on Red Cadeux – the horse suggested by Diesel the Psychic Echidna, mostly just for a laugh.

As anyone who gives a crap about the race would know, Red Cadeux came in second, so I ended up winning $10. Not bad at all for advice from a monotreme, not bad at all.

Anyway, in honour of the event what song could I choose for today but My Lovely Horse from classic comedy series Father Ted?

For those unfamiliar with the show (have you been living under a rock for the last twenty years?) it follows the chaotic lives of a trio of notably unholy Catholic Priests exiled to a small island off the coast of Ireland – the venal Father Ted, the idiotic Father Dougal and the frankly diabolical Father Jack. In the episode A Song for Europe Ted and Dougal decide to enter the Eurosong music contest (an extremely  thinly veiled parody of Eurovision) and come up with a ridiculous dirge about ‘a lovely horse’. They later improve it by stealing a tune from another song, but end up representing Ireland in Eurosong with the original because the country is desperate to lose and avoid the cost of hosting it again next year.

In real life the song was written by Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy, and the band actually released it as B-Side in 1999.

In any case, here is the song as presented in the episode (the seemingly random inclusion of swimming sequences and ping pong is because it’s a parody of the video for That’s What Friends Are For by the Swarbriggs).

They really need to lose that sax solo…

My second pick sticks to the Eurosong theme with the song Wolves of the Sea, which was Latvia’s Eurovision entry in 2008. But I’m not going to make you listen to the campy Latvian version, instead I’m presenting the cover by Scottish pirate-metal band Alestorm, which was released in 2009 (yes, pirate-metal is a thing).

I first heard this track in the Morley branch of Games Workshop and was rather surprised to say the least. But not as surprised as some commenter on YouTube who seem to be unable to grasp the purpose of the steel drum break in the middle. I mean, is it really that hard to figure out what they’re referencing? Really?

Anyway, that’s enough for now. The prawns I had at lunch seem to be disagreeing with me, and I’m taking an early night.

Europhoria

I haven’t been paying much attention to Eurovision this year – work has been a nightmare lately and I’ve mostly been coming home, grabbing something quick to eat, then crawling into bed. But I had dinner over at Rebecca and Dom’s last night and watched some of the second semi-final, so I have some thoughts on that.

What I heard of the Netherlands seemed to be a cheerful little song, even if the Native American head-dress seemed a little culturally insensitive. Sweden’s song was nothing really special, but there was something about Loreen’s voice and performance that… I dunno, it just had something that kind of lifted it above its parts (and is probably responsible for its winning). Georgia seemed to have no idea what they were doing – as Rebecca commented they seemed to have looked at all the winning entries for the last 30 years and tried to incorporate elements from them into their act – with the result being a horrible mess. Slovakia got confused and sent a Whitesnake impersonator, while Lithuania sent Scott Summers. Turkey featured a posse of dancing bat-men who periodically turned into a boat. The song didn’t really grab me, but after re-listening to it I can perceive some of its latent merits.

What I found particularly interesting about this year was the use of video screens to overcome the “only six performers” rule. Several of the acts featured extra – often computer generated – dancers. It’ll be interesting if they allow that next time.

Don’t know if I’ll watch the final tonight. We all know who won and I need to be up early to get into work tomorrow (supposed to be my day off I might add!).

While on the subject of music and dancing, how’s this for a marriage proposal? There’s been a lot of debate over whether it’s a viral marketing campaign or not, but it genuinely seems to be authentic…

Hello Dusseldorf!

Viva Helvetica!

In years past I’ve tried to write comprehensive reviews of the Eurovision Song Contest – the first semi-finals of which were broadcast here in Australia last night. I have to admit that I haven’t been very good at this – the constraints of work, grocery shopping, cleaning cooking and all the other daily distractions have left me with little opportunity to rattle off crystaline prose about Norwegians punks playing violins (or whatever).

So this year I’m just jotting down some disparate, stream of conciousness thoughts about each act, and giving them all a rating. Deal with it!

My ratings are from 0 to 5, with the following definitions…

0 – I sincerely never want to hear this crap again! Kill it with fire!
1 – This song is either dull, or annoying or both, and has nothing to recommend it.
2 – A generally poor effort. There are a few decent bits but overall this song fails to impress.
3 – A passable effort, but nothing particularly special.
4 – Now this is a good song. I approve!
5 – This is awesome! 12 Points!

So, on to semi-final 1!

Poland
Sounds suspiciously like Tainted Love. In Polish which is good. Some problematic lighting choices makes the women look like they have glowing crotches. 3 out of 5

Norway
It’s in Swahili??? OK, Swahili and English. Hmmm, she sounds a bit off key – the bits where the other singers are backing her up are a lot better. It’s very Lion King, but kind of catchy. 3 out of 5

Albania
Singer looks like the Albanian version of P!nk. Kind of slow to get going. It picks up a bit more in the chorus, but it’s not grabbing me. Very tense and angsty. That’s it! It sounds like an Alanis Morrisete song! It’s pure Albanian Alanis! 2.5 out of 5

Armenia
A boxing glove!? What!? In English. A bit off key in parts. Oh good lord! That chorus! It’s completely at odds with the verses yet still utterly dreadful! OK, that boxing ring bit is kind of clever, but the song still sucks. Hmm, apparently the rehersal performance was a lot better – which wouldn’t be hard. 2 out of 5

Turkey
Rock song. In English. It’s OK but nothing special. And what’s with the girl(?) in the cage? Singer reminds me of the guy from Wall of Voodoo. 3 out of 5

Serbia
Very 60’s mod style. Quite good, although it reminds me pretty strongly of some other song I can’t pick. In Serbian, which is a plus. 3.5 out of 5

Russia
First up, one of the dancers looks like that weasely guy from Con Air. Steve Buscimi! That’s him! A moody intro before a rock pop boy-band song. In English. The chorus isn’t bad – until it hits the last bar and goes straight into Backstreet Boys territory. “Puts my mind in the dirty zone”? Really? 3 out of 5

Switzerland
A ukelele! Awesome! In English. It’s not spectacular, but I’m quite liking this. Again it really reminds me of another song. Well done Switzerland! 4 out of 5

Georgia
Liking it so far. Wow, that’s one serious set of pipes! Fairly heavy sounding rock. Oh dear. Well. It was going quite well until they started rapping. You’re not Linkin Park guys! Hmmm, parts of it were excellent. 3.5 out of 5

Finland
Paradise Oskar? What? Coldplay sounding intro. Oh man. Those lyrics are… awful. Yes, it’s clearly a Coldplay song with dreadful lyrics. Should have done it in Finish, then no one would be able to tell. Oh well, maybe it’ll appeal to the sentimental market. Creepy smile at end – he looks like a sex offender! 1.5 out of 5

Malta
Good intro. Oh wow, it’s techno. No, wait, it’s Tainted Love again! Not spectacular, but a decent dance track. Oo! Piano break! And there’s the key change! 3.5 out of 5

San Marino
A ballad apparently. Lush opening, though she sounds a bit off key. Now she’s really sounding off key! Song is nothing special really. Loses half a point for consistant off-keyness. 2.5 out of 5

Croatia
What the?! What’s with the guy in the top hat?! What is this?! Ah! It’s a trashy Europop track! About time, we haven’t had one so far! I still want to know what’s up with hat dude though, he’s creeping around like a humaoid mantis. Oo! Costume change! Aha! Key change! Here comes hat dude again for… a third costume change! What a waste of time. – 2.5 out of 5

Iceland
There’s a sad story behind this one. The intended singer died a few weeks before the local semi’s, so his friends got together and sang it instead. Sounds like a Beatles track – a Paul one though. Nothing spectacular, but not bad. Will probably punch higher than its weight from sympathy votes. – 3.5 out of 5

Hungary
Sounds suspiciously like a Celine Dion rock ballad. Oh yeah, Celine all over. Hmmm, a verse in Hungarian. Wait for the key change…. What!? No key change!? Celine would be appalled! 3.5 out of 5

Portugal
Oh wow, they’re in weird, Village People style costumes and have placards. Song is sort of Portugese protest folk pop. Compentent performance, but… weird. And not good weird. I don’t usually say this, but it might have been better in English so we could tell what they hell they’re trying to say. It’s like watching sub-standard Hi-Five, but hey, at least they tried something different. 3 out of 5

Lithuania
An operatic ballad apparently. Ouch, lyrics appear to be in badly broken English. Very musical – as in something you’d hear in a musical. I can tell it’s a good performance, but it’s just not my kind of music. 3 out of 5

Azerbaijan
Lots of “Oh Oh”. Ack, it’s a duet. And one that’s a bit flat too. Hmmm, pretty average pop ballad. Nothing to see here folks, move along. 2 out of 5

Greece
Here come the drums. What? It’s some guy growling things into a mic? Like an angry rapper? And now some other guy singing? What the hell is this? And now we’re back to the growling. You know this could actually work with a bit more integration, but as it stands it’s a mess. Of course the Greeks have a history of winning with absolute garbage, so we’ll see how they go. 2 out of 5

So there we go. I plan to watch the second semi-final tonight and write up a similar review, and the final tomorrow. Let the good times roll!

Eurovison 2010 – The Saga Continues

Albania! Albania!

OK, the promised Part 2 of my Eurovision 2010 round up. Who were we up to..?

Bosnia Herzovina – “Thunder and Lightning” – Vukašin Brajic: Best described as guitar based rock pop with strings, this song wasn’t great, but with so little decent competition it punched well above its weight. Nothing really notable though. Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 (Not bad, not bad at all).

Poland – “Legenda” – Marcin Mrozinski: WEIRD! That pretty much sums up this one. And not in a good Eurovision-weird way. More in a our-singer-is-a-serial-killer way. There were a bunch of girls in national dress, biting laviciously into apples and then some weird kind of drama that resulted in the singer apparently throttling one of them to death while the others pulled off her clothes. The song itself couldn’t seem to make up its mind between opera, lounge music and Robbie William’s latest. WEIRD! Verdict: A creepy 2.5 out of 5 (very creepy).

Belgium – “Me and My Guitar” – Tom Dice: The title pretty much says it all. One guy and his guitar. A pleasant enough acoustic ballad located somewhere between Cat Stevens and Tracy Chapman. Nothing amazing but it stood out quite well among some of the other dull lunacy on show. Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 (Even if it did sound a bit like James Blunt).

Malta – “My Dream” – Thea Garrett: Apparently this year Malta decided to enter a Liza Minelli impersonator – I don’t understand this any more than you do. Her song was a passable pop ballad (a lot of ballads this year) in a strong American accent which went a bit operatic at the end and featured a guy dressed as a seagull dancing around the stage. Again – I don’t understand this any more than you do. Verdict: 3 out of 5 (Competent).

Albania – “It’s All About You” – Juliana Pasha: Juliana Pasha bears a passing resemblance to Smallville’s Alison Mack, which is something that in my opinion Eurovision should have more of. Her song was essentially an 80’s glam dance track featuring an Eraserhead lookalike on a violin and a not-bad electric guitar solo. It also had a decent beat which was nice to hear after all those slow, dull ballads. Probably my favourite track of the night (and not just because I have thing for Chloe Sullivan). Verdict: 4 out of 5 (Kick ass!).

Greece – “OPA” – Giorgos Alkaios and Friends: Musically this song is pretty stupid. But it’s so cheerful and energetic that you don’t really care. An electro/techo track with plenty of influence from traditional Greek music (or at least “Zorba’s Dance” which is the only Greek song anyone knows or cares about). The performers all wore white, rhinestone encrusted pyjamas open to the chest and yelled a lot, and there was a bit played on a mobile phone right at the end. Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 (Mindless fun).

Portugal – “Há dias assim” – Filipa Azevedo: A Portugese power ballad, performed by a girl who managed to do a remarkable Whitney Houston impersonation despite not singing in English. Not remarkable by any measure but very well performed. Verdict: 4 out of 5 (Well done).

Macedonia – “Jas ja imam silata” – Gjoko Taneski, Billy Zver and Pejcin: Macedonia couldn’t seem to make up its mind. Was it doing an 80’s pop song? Was it rap? Or was it power rock? I’ve got no idea since it kept randomly jumping between them. Far too much going on to form any decent kind of opinion as to the talents of those involved. There was a quite good impersonation of a Slash guitar solo towards the end, but it wasn’t enough to save this fairly shambolic performance. Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 (The guitar solo earned them some extra points).

Belarus – “Butterflies” – 3+2 feat Robert Wells: What’s that? Belarus are on? Oh. I see. They’re just standing there singing a heavily accented and rather dull song about butterflies. Hmmm. Have I got any email? Nope. Oh, they’re still going, OK. I wonder if I turned off the oven? Yes, I did. I specifically remember doing so. Well, look at that, the women have sprouted butterfly wings. How… interesting. Ah, they’re finished now. Good. Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 (When Mr Lordi sprouted wings it was cool. You’re not Mr Lordi.)

Iceland – “Je ne sais quoi” – Hera Björk: Björk!? Iceland have Björk!? Oh, wait, a different Björk. OK then. Hera Björk – what Terry Wogan would have called “a well set up lump of a girl” – did quite a good job on this catchy techno/piano track. Not amazing but pleasant enough to listen to. Verdict: 4 out of 5 (Sorry about the lump comment…)

So, there we go, my opinion on the first semi final. Now I’ve just got to get the second semi final written up – which will probably happen sometime before August – and watch and write up the Final tonight. Albania for the Win!

Eurovision 2010 – Part 1

Bring Back Lordi!

I had so many plans for things to do today, and got none of them dealt with. I guess I just needed a day of wasteful sloth. Oh well, I’ll be energetic tomorrow.

In the meantime, it’s the yearly schlockfest of Eurovision! Woohoo! 😀

The first semi-final was last night, the second will be tonight, and the final on Sunday. I probably won’t see all of it, it clashes with Doctor Who after all, but I’ll certainly be enjoying what I do.

Anyway, here’s my run down of the first semi-final – or as much of it as I can write before the seconf semi final starts. All performances are rated on a scale of 0 to 5 where five is the best thing ever, and zero is a good argument to nuke the country responsible…

Moldova – “Run Away” – SunStroke Project and Olia Tira: Nothing really special here. There was a glowing electric violin, a guy spinning around on a disk, and a woman in a weird white puffy skirt that made her look like an ostrich. Some of the makeup seemed to be based on the chopper pilot from Avatar and the glowing violin bow was waved around like a light sabre. The song was a passable dance track but pretty much forgettable. Verdict: 3 out of 5 (Competent).

Russia – “Lost and Forgotten” – Peter Nalitch and Friends: A fairly poor showing from Russia I thought. A slow, dreary waltz with a slightly more energetic chorus. There was some really bad acting with the singer looking mournfully at a photograph, there was a bit where one of the backup singers talk sings, glitter fell fitfully from the ceiling throughout and they threw in a wind machine for the end where the song inexplicably went all happy. Frankly the whole thing was mawkish in the extreme, and the singer sounded off key half the time. Verdict: 2 out of 5 (Poor).

Estonia – “Siren” – Malcolm Lincoln and Manpower 4: An interesting attempt by Estonia with a bunch of guys in suits and lead singer who seemed to have taken his fashion cues from the New Romantics. The song sort of sped up and down with a guy alternately playing and attacking a piano, and the singer breaking out into occasional bursts of mad dancing before calming down again. Then right at the end one of the backup singers passed out (I presume this was part of the act…). If the song had been any good it would have been quite a good show, as is the song was weak and unfocused. Verdict: A high 2 out of 5 (Weak).

Slovakia – “Horehronie” – Kristina: At last some proper Eurovision madness! Kristina and her tree people took to the stage in leaf and vine adorned druid robes and sang and danced while a second woman dressed in white stood off to the side and did nothing. In the second verse she took over the singing duties when Kristina’s dancing got out of hand. The song itself sounded like Shakira crossed with Deep Forest and concluded with the dancers throwing bits of string around. Very confusing and quite entertaining. Verdict: 3 out of 5 (Quite Competent).

Finland – “Työlki ellää” – Kuunkuiskaajat: Basically an eccentric oompa-oompa song with accordion and two women dressed in white. Oh and downright silly folk dancing. Nothing amazing but at least it had a decent beat and lots of enthusiasm. Verdict: 3 out of 5 (Competent).

Latvia – “What For?” – Aisha: A girl in a silk dressing gown and greek sandals singing an Alanis Morrisette accordion song with lyrics that had to be heard to be believed. “Uncle Joe?” “Mr God?”. People, if you’re going to sing a song in a second language at least get someone who speaks said language to check it over before performing it in front of millions of viewers. Problems aside the singer had a strong voice and performed the absolutely insane lyrics pretty well. Verdict: 3 out of 5 (Competent once you block out the words).

Serbia – “Ovo je Balkan” – Milan Stankovic: A beaming man-child with terrifying hair and one of Adam Ant’s old jackets sings a halfway decent dance track with crazy wailing horns while waving his legs around in a deranged manner. Could have done with more bass and they slipped in a stupid “radio effect” on one of the verses. Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 (Should have tried harder).

OK, the second semi-final is about to start, so check in tomorrow for more reviews and sarcasm!

Good news Everyone!

#We’ll steal the show, Jolly Rogers go! We are the wolves of the sea!#

Phoenix has successfully landed on Mars, and Sir Ian McKellen is signed up to the Hobbit movies. It’s a great time to be alive!

No updates over the weekend – I was busy working on other projects and watching Eurovision. You can expect a detailed summary later but it can be best summed up as Russia’s fairly dull effort winning through political voting, the best acts (involving pirates and old men yelling at the audience while scratching gramophone records) getting nowhere, and the UK coming equal last despite having a pretty good song. Next year in Moscow!

I was also supposed to catch up with Rebecca and Dom for lunch, but Rebecca got sick so we had to call it off. Hope you feel better soon Rebecca!

Better go. I have work to do.