Would it be true for Iceland, the night for Spain, the UK's time, Greece's night or would it be a fairytale for Norway?
16.05.2009 - 16.05.2009 12 °C
While I am still having some trouble with mastering the English language as spoken by those who invented it, I am starting to feel more "European" than I previous did. In fact, last night - a Saturday night - I stayed in and watched on TV an important night of political unity for the continent.
Imagine that it is the late 1950s, and Western Europe continues to try and rebuild from the second world war, while being rent apart due to the growing threat from the Communist bloc. You, one of the political masters of Europe, think to yourself, "what can we do to bring together this continent in peace and love?" That is where the idea was born.
That last paragraph exists solely to give some gravitas to what I am about to announce. I stayed in on the partiest night of the weekend to watch a pop-song singing contest.
Picture from the Times of the entrants from Romania, Greece and the UK
Eurovision is a national song contest that has been held every year since 1956 among the countries that are participants in the European Broadcasting Union. The 2009 contest featured a total of 42 countries. Each country presents one song and one artist to sing it. The populations of the EBU countries then get to vote which song they liked the best, though they are unable to vote for their own song. There are two semi-finals to whittle the entrants down to 25, and then they have a final, which is broadcast on TV.
This years contest was held in Moscow, Russia. The winner of the previous year's contest gets to host, and Russia had won last year with a song called "Believe." The former Soviet bloc countries have tended to do well of late, mostly blamed on "political voting blocs," where all the countries of the former Soviet empire all vote for each other. The scandal was enough to have the former UK host of the show, Terry Wogan quit in disgust and made the EBU scramble to change the voting this year to include a professionally judge component.
The contest has over the years attracted some big names, and is most famous for launching the career of a little group from Sweden called ABBA, who won the contest in 1974 with Waterloo. Less well known is the fact that Celine Dion, Canadian song bird somehow managed to win the contest in 1988, despite, you know, not being European and all.
As the countries are vying for popular votes, the songs tend to be pretty middle-of-the-road catchy pop songs, and to attract votes the presentation of the songs are usually very over the top. It is high camp, to be sure, and I found myself laughing out loud at the cheesy Euro-pop songs and singers at many points. But it is also good fun, and some of the songs are real toe-tappers.
The UK, after years of humiliating defeats pulled out the big guns this year, getting Diane Warren and Andrew Lloyd Webber to pen a song for reality TV show winner Jade Ewen. The song, called "It's My Time" was pretty standard Andrew Lloyd Webber fare, and if you are a fan of his, you probably would like the song. Personally, I thought it crap.
I was more impressed with Greece's entry from Ricky-Martin-She-Bangs-Alike Sakis Rouvas, who sung a song entitled "This is Our Night." It wasn't, though. Greece wound up in 7th. Many of the songs included statements about it being their night or our time or such. Wishful thinking for most of them.
The stage show highlights of the night came from two countries. Albania's entry from 17 year old Albania Idol winner Kejsi Tola entitled "Carry Me in Your Dreams" included dancing Oompa-Loompas on stage with giant smiles and a man dressed as a green disco mirror ball. It was truly a frightening scene. And Ukraine's Svetlana Loboda sang her song "Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)" with the help of Roman centurions dressed in sequins. The Ukraine song was kind of catchy, and was the only one that included a drum solo by the singer, so points for that.
The winner was Norway, with a mind-numbingly catchy song sung by a little pixie-faced boy with a fiddle named Alexander Rybak. The song, entitled "Fairytale" was the run away winner. It finished with the highest total ever - 387 points - and the highest margin of victory - 169 points ahead of its nearest competitor (the Taylor Swift like Yohanna from Iceland with "Is it True?" Yes, it's true, your country is bankrupt and you lost Eurovision! Double whammy.).
So, round one to Norway. There are still two more big contests for European Supremacy to come over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!