Well, that was random.

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Last night’s Eurovision really was a change from the norm. On three counts, in fact.

For a start Sweden did a magnificent job of hosting a complex and demanding live TV show, not once but three times in a single week. Two semi-finals and a grand final. Additionally, each night was staged differently, with the hosts doing a fantastic job each time. Not just reading a script like robots, but ad-libbing, singing and dancing.

Secondly, the quality of acts has definitely improved over the years. We might not all agree (ha!) over who should have won, but I think we can agree that the show was slick and entertaining, which is a lightyears from how it all was in the early 90s, for example. Some of these songs have done very well in national charts over the last few months and the music is a lot more in touch with what the average person likes. I emphasise some. 

Thirdly – and I’m taking a sip of coffee here, to gather my thoughts – the voting was… different. For the first time, the jury votes were delivered before the tele-voting from the general public. And if it showed one thing, it’s that the juries are so out of the touch with he average Eurovision voter. How else could Poland go from bottom of the heap to 8th overall after tele-voting results were added?

(You can see how all the countries voted via this very detailed and complex table).

I’m all on favour of this new voting system as it just adds to the tension at the end of the show. Yes, Australia looked like the runaway favourite for so long, but was then overtaken by Ukraine when the there was still a chance for Russia to steal it. Those last few minutes were so very tense, like the bomb-disposal scene in a Hollywood blockbuster.

And given the very real conflicts between Ukraine and Russia over recent years, it was especially tense.

I think the Ukraine song, while not one of my favourites, resonated with voters. They also liked the Russian song, but at the same time I think everyone felt conflicted about awarding the contest to Russia again. Despite the EBU’s protestations that the Eurovision isn’t political. The Eurovision sure as hell is.

So after some fantastic songs and an almost flawless presentation of acts, voting and results, Sweden are the real winners here. They have raised the Eurovision bar and I feel quite sorry for the Ukraine who have a lot to live up to. Petra Mede deserves several awards for keeping things light and just the right side of sarcastic, while Måns Zelmerlöw demonstrated he can sing while moving around on a hoverboard.

My one outstanding question about the whole evening is why anyone thought it would be a good idea to have Justin Timberlake perform as part of the interval act? His ad-libbing in the green room with contestants was nothing short of cringe-inducing and his performance was painting by numbers. His whole attitude was “I don’t know why I’m here and I really don’t care”.

Call me old-fashioned, but a bit more about all that fantastic Swedish pop music that was glossed over so quickly would have been a much better time-killer until the voting.

Sure, I was very sorry to see Spain do so badly and to see Australia pipped at the post in the end, but it was a hugely enjoyable contest all the same.

So well done Sweden and here’s to next year in Ukraine – international crises and border wars permitting, of course.

And in case you missed it all (what were you doing with your Saturday night if you were’t watching Eurovision?!), here’s the winning song. Brace yourself, it’s far from cheery.

Eurovision semi-final two: reflections

If I’m honest, I’m pretty disappointed with the results of last night’s second Eurovision semi-final in Stockholm. I thought some of the great songs I’ve grown to like in the last few weeks were a virtual shoe-in for the final. I was sure of the other would bomb.

Boy was I wrong.

Continue reading “Eurovision semi-final two: reflections”

Eurovision 2016: semi-final 1 (aftermath)

 

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Oooh. Despite what I promise myself every year, I end up getting more annoyed at Eurovision voting decisions. Last night’s first semi-final of the song contest was no exception.

While acts like Cyprus and the Czech Republic getting enough voted to secure a place in Saturday’s final, the guys from Estonia and Iceland went home empty-handed. I think both acts did a great job on the night, but where Eurovision voting is concerned, there’s simply no accounting for taste!

(Speaking of, with no Greece in the final, who will Cyprus vote for?!)

Onwards to semi-final two (which really looks like the ‘group of death’, given the great songs included) on Thursday. I’m hoping Ireland make it through as Nicky Byrne has done a great job with an okay song. I think Australia are pretty much guaranteed a place in the final, such is the quality of their act. And with the album on almost constant repeat over the last week or so, both the Macedonian and Albanian songs have really grown on me.

Here’s hoping they get through too. But please – see the above warning about the randomness of voting. Also, there was a huge difference between album recordings and live performances last night (looking at you, Finland), so all my hopes and predictions may come to nothing if the acts mess it up on the night.

As for the show itself, Petra Mede was as entertaining as ever. She should be made permanent host. Similarly, the staging was impressive.

But it was really disappointing that the BBC ignored the (apparently impressive) interval act and instead forced viewers to watching a pretty painful ‘comedy’ routine featuring the UK’s entry.

Eurovision 2016: FYR Macedonia

I’m man enough to admit that, against all my better judgement, this has grown on me since I first heard it. I actually found myself humming along with it the other day. Scary.

It has shades of Bonnie Tyler about it (check out the leggings and strained chorus) and, while it’s quite generic in a soft-rock kind of way, there’s something memorable about it.

There’s something a little diva-ish about it too, reminding me of ‘Primadonna’ by the fabulous Alla Pugacheva. I hope Kaliopi does well on the night and, given its memorable chorus, may even make it into the final.

Once again, the Eurovision demonstrating that it’s a broad church when it comes to musical styles. (Now imagine that being spoken by Terry Wogan…)

Eurovision 2016: Italy

I’ve fallen a little in love with this song since I first heard it. I’ve actually had the Eurovision 2016 album on loop since it appeared on Apple Music.

Don’t judge me.

But this Italian song, I love. It’s not a winner as it’s not that sing-a-long or memorable, but there’s something about its intensity that appeal to me. And frankly you could since a McDonald’s menu to me in Italian and I’d love it.

What a language.

So here’s Francesca Michelin singing ‘No Degree of Separation’. I’d love to see this do well, but have to wonder how it’ll fair against some of the showier acts on the night.

8/10

Eurovision 2016: Australia

You may very well wonder how and why Australia is competing in the Eurovision Song Contest. I stopped querying participation some time ago, to be honest. Apparently, the Eurovision knows no borders (though it does know outstanding membership fees, much to Romania’s embarrassment).

But they’re here now and so we better get used to it, as they seem to be taking it seriously.

Last year’s entry was great and did very well – back when we all thought it was a temporary thing, in honour of the Eurovision’s 60th anniversary. Maybe they even got a few ‘friendly’ or even ‘charity’ points. But they’re back. And they’re aiming to win, judging by the calibre of this year’s entry.

We need to take this threat seriously.

Dani Im is superb and the song is a perfect fit for her. She’s already won Australian X-Factor, could the Eurovision be next on her list? It’s a song that stands on its own merits – no need for costumes or gimmicks. And for that alone, I hope it does really well on the night.

I have to wonder: if Australia win, where will the contest be held in 2017? We need to start thinking about this…the Eurovision is just weeks away!

Eurovision 2016: France

And here’s France’s entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It’s Amir with “J’ai Church”. It reminds me of a whole bunch of other songs, but mostly it has echoes of last year’s Swedish winner. Upbeat and catchy, I think it’ll do well.

It’s interesting how they’ve moved from 100% French lyrics to introducing more and more English over the years. A bit of a shame as French is so beautiful when sung. Not all languages have that advantage (I’m looking at you, Dutch).

We’re getting closer and closer to the big day(s) next month and I think it’s fair to say I won’t have time to blog about all the entries. I also think it’s fair to say not all the entries deserve individual blog posts. Harsh? Maybe. But I have been listening to a number of the songs on Spotify, to gauge what they’re like after a few days. You can hear most of them on this playlist.

After repeated plays, this one is definitely growing on me.

7/10

Eurovision 2016: Russia tones it down

After releasing what was probably the most homoerotic Eurovision entry of all time, Russia has decided to get Sergey Lazarev to sing something a little less…full on.

And I think it’s a shame.

This is (without the video) a very painting-by-numbers pop number. Whereas the first song was flamboyant and memorable, this is doing nothing for me. The video is, all the same, quite impressive. But the lyrics…are banal beyond description. I’m picturing the writers flipping through an English language dictionary looking for words that simply rhyme.

That said, I see Twitter has been abuzz about this new song, with many people tipping this for victory. But what will happen then? Will Europe’s gays be happy to decamp (pardon the pun) to Moscow, where right now it’s positively dangerous to just BE gay, never mind campaign for equal rights?!

Eurovision is, after all, like Christmas and New Years Even rolled into one for us gays. (Tongue firmly in cheek).

Meh. Still hoping Spain wins big on the night. I give this one 5/10.