The 51st Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix was held on May 20, 2006 with a preliminary round held two days beforehand. It took place in Athens in Greece, courtesy of 2005's winner Elena Paparizou. Thirty-eight countries entered in total, with 24 gaining entry to the final round.

Being the almighty nerdmeister generals that we are, my mother and I (at whose flat I watched it) printed off some scorecards from the BBC Radio 2 website, which had columns for marking out of ten for the song quality, performance quality, the dance routine, and the costumes, thus bringing it all to a scoree out of forty for each one. This was, I hasten to add, a perfectly legitimate exercise just to see if we could predict the winner, and not because either of us are sad enough to keep records from year to year.

The hosts for this televisual feast were two extremely shouty Greeks named Maria Menounos and Sakis Rovas. It must be mentioned that the "shouty" host has enjoyed an upsurge in popularity recently, such as the hosts at the previous year's musical extravaganza in Kiev. Still, it's certainly better than the 2001 hosts, whom Terry Wogan described as "Dr. Death and the Tooth Fairy" and who spoke in rhyming couplets throughout the entire performance. The other thing of note was Sakis's suit, which was shiny and a sort of dull gold colour, and that Maria interjected everything with the word "amazing." There was even one bit where she managed to put multiple instances of that word in the same sentence. However, before we were treated to their appearance at the start, the previous year's winner, Elena Paparizou, appeared, and sang something in Greek as a "giant Terry's Chocolate Orange" descended onto the stage while bungee jumpers bounced up and down. This was then followed by a repeat performance of her winning song, continuing the tradition set by past victors Sertab Erener in 2004 and Ruslana Lyzhicko in 2005.

At that point the contest started proper. Here follows a few lines on each of the entrants, and the scores out of 40 given to them by both myself and my mother.

1. Switzerland.

Artist: Six4One.
Song: "If We All Give A Little"
Hazelnut's Score: 16
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 13
Comments: A caring, sharing song in the great tradition of Imagine and other auditory slabs of saccharine sweetness. It had no redeeming features whatsoever and was, not to put too fine a point on it, dull. They could sing, but to be fair, they had no chance with this, and their lower-mid-table finish is probably about right for such an uninspiring opening entry.
Position: 17th.

2. Moldova

Artist: Arsenium.
Song: "LOCA"
Hazelnut's Score: 21
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 17
Comments: I scrawled in my notes on my score sheet, "Latin Reggae Suicide Polka" and that's probably a pretty accurate representation of this song, as is its name... The stage show featured a lead singer who would, every so often, hide behind a giant cut-out sailboat with "LOCA" emblazoned on it and change her costume. Furthermore, about two thirds of the way through the performance, out came a rapper on a scooter, rapped a bit, and then scooted back off again. I quite enjoyed it actually, just because it was so batshit insane.
Position: 20th.

3. Israel

Artist: Eddie Butler.
Song: "Together We Are One"
Hazelnut's Score: 15
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 10
Comments: A larger than average pianist played at a piano while a suave singer and a number of almost as suave backing singers, all dressed in white (which was the colour of the competition, judging by the get-up of most of the entries) crooned out some sort of love ballad. Frankly uninspiring, and both of us just talked over the whole thing, mainly to point out that all the women were wearing net curtains for skirts.
Position: 23rd.

4. Latvia.

Artist: Cosmos.
Song: "I Hear Your Heart"
Hazelnut's Score: 20
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 19
Comments: Close-harmony singing was the order of the day for this, and neither of us could maintain a straight face when one of them, we're certain of it, appeared to utter the line, "Silence, silence, fucking silence." They also had some sort of puppet thing marked "Cosmos" on stage, which, towards the end, they appeared to make walk. And they were dressed in white. I marked them up just for that and that line above.
Position: 16th.

5. Norway.

Artist: Christine Guldbrandsen.
Song: "Alvedansen"
Hazelnut's Score: 20
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 19
Comments: Ever since their 1995 victory with Secret Garden, Norway have often put out vaguely folksy and floaty-feeling new age jobbies. This was no exception, and included a whole platoon of female fiddlers, all dressed in white. Unfortunately, I didn't think of elves dancing when I heard this, but Michael Flatley. It was better than some entries but not the sort of thing that usually wins at Eurovision. Secret Garden did, most likely, because they were the only such entry there - and they were more Irish than the Irish, who were on a winning streak back then.
Position: 14th.

6. Spain.

Artist: Las Ketchup (yes, that Las Ketchup.)
Song: "Bloody Mary"
Hazelnut's Score: 15
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 11
Comments: "Un Bloody Mary por favor..." went the hopelessly uninspiring chorus line. This was in between the female performers lined up on stools. Frankly really, really dull. But at least they weren't all dressed in white. In fact, it's so dull I can't remember anything else about it.
Position: 21st.

7. Malta.

Artist: Fabrizio Faniello.
Song: "I Do"
Hazelnut's Score: 17
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 16
Comments: There were worse songs than this dance number. The main singer really did have serious eyebrows though. It had a good bounce to it, but alas, Europop is no longer taken seriously, not even at Eurovision. This was reflected in Fabrizio's acquisition of the dubious honour of gaining the worst result ever for Malta.
Position: Last.

8. Germany.

Artist: Texas Lightning.
Song: "No No Never"
Hazelnut's Score: 21
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 20
Comments: German country and western. Who'd have thought it. This was a bit of a novelty entry, to be honest, but as this and previous years' contests have proven, you have to do something a bit different to succeed at Eurovision. It was, though, an enjoyable little number, and the Germans outdid themselves rather when their representative for the voting was garbed similarly to the rest of the band, though more on that later. It should have done better though.
Position: 15th.

9. Denmark.

Artist: Sidsel Ben Semmane.
Song: "Twist of Love"
Hazelnut's Score: 18
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 16
Comments: This warmed-over rework of the Twist, with the performers once again dressed in white, was enjoyable enough but pretty, well, forgettable really. She did, however, have quite a pair of lungs on her and was able to belt out the song nicely. But it was not to be.
Position: 18th.

10. Russia.

Artist: Dima Bilan
Song: "Never Let You Go"
Hazelnut's Score: 21
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 20
Comments: Mulletheaded Dima Bilan is apparently a sex symbol in the former Eastern Bloc, and it showed as he came on stage hundreds of teenage girls screeched en masse. He was, of course, dressed in white, but his backing singers, however, wore a set of harem pants that really did nothing for them. It was not the first, and not the last, case of really awful trousers in the contest this year. They came second, which meant that Dima punched above his weight rather, but then again, there are a large number of former Soviet bloc countries in Eurovision, many of which might just have awoken the next morning to T-90s on the horizon if not for their approval and douze points.
Position: 2nd.

11. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Artist: Elena Risteska.
Song: "Ninanajna"
Hazelnut's Score: 18
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 17
Comments: To be perfectly fair, I can't remember a thing about this song. She was dressed in white though. It was a sort of pop-dance number - Europop, if you will. It finished 12th, though it's an open secret that all the Balkans vote for each other, so this is a bit inflated rather.
Position: 12th.

12. Romania.

Artist: Mihai Traistariu.
Song: "Tornerò"
Hazelnut's Score: 22
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 21
Comments: Mihai looked rather suspiciously like Eminem at the ESC, and he was supported by a number of backing dancers in increasingly silly trousers. His "number two" on stage, so to speak, wore Daisy Dukes. It was a moderately good song, quite bouncy. And that's all I can really remember about it, to be fair.
Position: 4th.

13. Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Artist: Hari Mata Hari.
Song: "Lejla"
Hazelnut's Score: 15
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 15
Comments: Not, as Terry Wogan suggested, a rip-off of Eric Clapton's song, but what appeared to be a number of performers all sat on corners of a box, twanging on guitars. It was a rather dull song, and a rather uninspiring stage show, and how they managed to come 3rd I'll never know other than the fact that, as has already been said, the Balkans all vote for each other.
Position: 3rd.

14. Lithuania.

Artist: LT United.
Song: "We Are The Winners"
Hazelnut's Score: 24
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 23
Comments: For God's sake you had to admire their balls. This group of grey-suited ex-Lithuanian rockers gave us this memorable stomp, the lyrical content of which went, "We are the winners, of Eurovision / Vote, vote, vote, vote, for the winners." Neither myself nor my mother could keep our faces straight at this at all, and I think I peed my pants when one of them broke ranks and started dancing like David Brent at centre stage. The second verse was the same as the first one, except they sang it through a megaphone. They were booed after they finished and in the green room during the interval, but people still voted for them, probably because, like the rest of Eurovision, it would be a triumph of lunacy over common sense.
Position: 6th.

15. United Kingdom.

Artist: Daz Sampson.
Song: "Teenage Life"
Hazelnut's Score: 16
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 16
Comments: A snaggly-teethed rapper and nasal-voiced girls dressed in school uniforms shuffled, strutted, and stuck their arses out on stage to some third rate rap conducted in an accent which was a cross between Estuary and American. This was a break from the UK's tradition in recent years of fielding losers from Pop Idol or Fame Academy or The X Factor or whatever the shite reality TV talent show de la saison is, but it was still pretty average really. It was like they couldn't get Lady Sovereign in so they cobbled together this clone act. On top of all that, there was the uncomfortably paedophilic sexualisation of school uniforms and the nasal voices of these girlies in an otherwise gutless song. Bring back the Fame Academy rejects, say I.
Spiregrain's Comments: "You left out the extreme and absurd physical similarity between the UK's Daz Sampson and manic school caretaker and part-time schoolgirl-murderer, Ian Huntley. It gave our entry a little extra frisson."
Position: 19th.

16. Greece.

Artist: Anna Vissi.
Song: "Everything"
Hazelnut's Score: 18
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 16
Comments: The slightly Middle Eastern tinge has been a popular addition in recent years to songs in the Eurovision, and this was no exception. There was a spot of controversy which certain people tried to stir up, saying that she sang it in Greek during the national selection and in English during the actual contest, contrary to some EBU regulation.
Position: 9th.

17. Finland.

Artist: Lordi.
Song: "Hard Rock Hallelujah"
Hazelnut's Score: 26
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 24
Comments: In the grand tradition of Kiss and GWAR, a number of large Finns dressed in monster costumes appeared on stage and belted out this glam metal masterpiece. It was like absolutely nothing else at Eurovision and Terry Wogan called them "orcs and Klingons." Which they were. Apparently they never remove their masks, and in the green room, whenever they were given douze points on one of their many occasions, the monster nearest the camera would attempt to lick it. That, and the sheer epic size of the lead singer Uruk-Hai's platform soles ensured that this was far and away the best song at Eurovision this year, even if it did have a bit of costumed buffoonery about it. Incidentally, their victory marked the first time that Finland have ever won at Eurovision.
Position: Winners.

18. Ukraine.

Artist: Tina Karol.
Song: "Show Me Your Love"
Hazelnut's Score: 19
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 19
Comments: This rather lacklustre offering from the country that previously spawned the legendary Ruslana Lyzhicko sounded far too familiar to the previous year's winner. Oh, and she was dressed in white as well. However, copying the past winner did do them some favours as they placed fairly highly.
Position: 7th.

19. France.

Artist: Virginie Pouchain.
Song: "Il était temps"
Hazelnut's Score: 14
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 14
Comments: Every year, the French enter pretty much exactly the same song, a dirgeish, dull, quintessentially French chanteuse and then expect to do well with this. They rarely do. Though in 2004 they did enter a male singer with a backing dancer who was a very tall woman on stilts. This song was no exception, it was really, really, eye-shittingly boring. But then again, I have a feeling that the Eurovision is taken even less seriously in France than it is here. This is probably why the French have never won since 1977, as they keep flogging the same dead horse of which this is the latest tidal breath.
Position: 22nd.

20. Croatia.

Artist: Severina.
Song: "Moja stikla"
Hazelnut's Score: 22
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 21
Comments: Now this is more like it. Alongside the (dressed in white) female singer were a number of Croat dancers in what I assumed were traditional costumes performing a very energetic and folksy dance. It had quite a good stompy feel to it, and was a welcome break from the usual dicky Europop and suchlike we've come to expect from Eurovision in the 2000s. If anything, this entry, along with Lordi, Texas Lightning, and LT United as mentioned above, not to mention past entrants in recent years like Ruslana Lyzhicko and Wig Wam have shown a move towards people actually doing different things. This can only be a good thing.
Position: 13th.

21. Ireland.

Artist: Brian Kennedy.
Song: "Every Song is a Cry for Love"
Hazelnut's Score: 16
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 15
Comments: Ireland are another country who have got stuck in a rut of entering the same sort of thing. Ever since Johnny Logan (who was, apparently, originally an Australian) and their hat-trick in the 1990s, where they entered songs which adhered to the same "bloke singing with guitar" formula, they have consistently entered the same sort of thing. Unfortunately, as we have seen this decade, Eurovision has moven more towards folk and world music being more successful, and, if the victory of Lordi this year and the comparatively high placing of Wig Wam in 2005 is anything to go by, hard rock will be more prominent in the years to come. As a result, it was more mid-table mediocrity for the Emerald Isle.
Position: 10th.

22. Sweden.

Artist: Carola.
Song: "Invincible"
Hazelnut's Score: 20
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 18
Comments: See Ireland's comments, but replace "bloke singing with guitar" to "blatant derivative of Abba." Seriously. I found myself singing "The Winner Takes it All" over the top of this song, such was the similarity. Terry Wogan mentioned that he'd placed a few quid on this and several bookies had tipped them as their favourites to win, most likely because it was such a tried and tested formula, and probably the fact that Carola won herself previously in 1991 had something to do with it. That being said, as recently as 1999 Sweden won with Charlotte Nilssen and "Take Me To Your Heaven" which was also very Abba-like, so I can at least understand why.
Position: 5th.

23. Turkey.

Artist: Sibel Tuzun.
Song: "Superstar"
Hazelnut's Score: 22
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 20
Comments: Sibel's quite a star in her home country - and, it must be said, round the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean - so she's in good company with the rest of Turkey's entrants from previous years (notably 2003 winner Sertab Erener.) But it didn't go down as well as Sertab had three years hence. Most likely because in 2003 Sertab brought with her a bevy of belly dancers and had a Middle-Eastern feel to it, whereas this was simply a 1990s-era pop jobbie which was indistinguishable from any other such chart pop offerings other than the fact that it was in Turkish. The performance was spirited though.
Position: 11th.

24. Armenia.

Artist: André.
Song: "Without Your Love"
Hazelnut's Score: 24
Hazelnut's Mother's Score: 22
Comments: Armenia are first time entrants in Eurovision, and before you clamour that they're not even in Europe, that's not stopped Israel or Morocco from entering before, and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, Azerbaijan might even enter in 2007. But anyhow. As this was their first ever entry, they had to make a bit of an impression, so their dance routine consisted of the singer prancing round and entangling himself in a series of large elastic bands which were attached to the trousers of his female backing group. On top of all that, the song was, actually, quite good.
Position: 8th.

This then brought us to the interval act, which involved wheeling out Nana Mouskouri to give her opinion on the entries, then the shouty hosts wheeled out Elena Paparizou again to lead some interpretive dance called "4000 Years of Greek Song." In it, firstly masked people with torches came on and pranced about a bit, then some people dressed as "budgies" according to Terry Wogan jumped up and down, followed by monks with candles and it ended with some Greek shadow theatre, apparently. This neither of us could take seriously since it appeared to consist of dwarves wearing masks while someone played a bouzouki. To be fair, I didn't really pay much attention to the interval act since I was too busy using the toilet, getting in the next drinks, and discussing who to vote for (it was, undoubtedly, Finland.)

The voting heralded a new level of gimmickry this year, and that was the liaisons doing strange things on air. The Dutch representative, one Paul de Leeuw, even gave Sakis his mobile number. On top of that, the German rep was dressed as a cowboy, in keeping with the theme of their entry, and Cyprus gave 12 points to Greece, as always, in the form of a song. Furthermore, the voting was, as ever, extremely political, with the Balkan Block all voting for each other, the Scandinavians voting for each other, and all the former Soviet bloc voting for Russia. There was a slight technical mishap when the representative for Cyprus was noted on screen as being in Bern, Switzerland, but otherwise, it was all the same really, right down to France giving all their votes in French while everyone else gave their votes in English (apart from, according to cantdance, the Spanish, who also gave their votes in French for some reason.)

At the end of it all, it was Finland that won, with 292 points, 40 points clear of Russia, who came second, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, who came third. Although this makes Lordi the highest scoring act ever at Eurovision, it must be remembered that there are now 38 countries entering, all of whom have votes in the final round even if they didn't qualify. The biggest gap between first and second place is still Katrina & The Waves for the UK in 1997, who won by about 70 points.

Here follows the final results.

1. Finland, 292
2. Russia, 248
3. Bosnia & Herzegovina, 229
4. Romania, 172
5. Sweden, 170
6. Lithuania, 162
7. Ukraine, 145
8. Armenia, 129
9. Greece, 128
10. Ireland, 93
11. Turkey, 91
12. FYR Macedonia, 56
13. Croatia, 56
14. Norway, 36
15. Germany, 36
16. Latvia, 30
17. Switzerland, 30
18. Denmark, 26
19. United Kingdom, 25
20. Moldova, 22
21. Spain, 18
22. France, 5
23. Israel, 4
24. Malta, 1

This is Sweden Calling: Everything You Wanted To Know About The Eurovision Song Contest But Were Laughing Too Hard To Ask, Des Mangan.

Previous Year ||||| Eurovision Song Contest ||||| Next Year

Never while the sunlight brightens, never while the moonlight glimmers
On Goatsday in Barktober
When Finland wins the Eurovision

-Prehistoric, archaic and modern Finnish expressions for 'never'

For someone living in Finland, this has been a surreal event. The climate, though not extreme by any means, breeds a certain melancholy; the winter is too damn cold, too damn dark and too damn long for cheerfulness. The country plays the victim in the stage of world history. Appropriately, the people have developed a national inferiority complex (just like Canada).

As everyone knows, Finns tend to be overly concerned with their international image. Any interview with a foreign celebrity is all but guaranteed to have a question about hänen Finnishy impressions. There's a strong urge to gain fame and recognition, to "put Finland on the world map" - regardless of how many times it has been done already. It follows that contests and competitions, even the distilled kitsch of Eurovision, are taken a bit... seriously. The victory anthem of Finland's ice hockey world cup win in 1995 is still very widely known. As for Eurovision, we've sucked, even placing dead last on five occasions. "Finland, zero points" was a true nationwide trauma. And now this.

In the old world, Lordi was yet another vaguely famous hard rock band and known for never appearing without their ridiculous masks. As the country geared up for yet another humiliating defeat in a tasteless contest because, perkele, we're doing it and that's reason enough, the band got into the national preliminaries. Pandemonium! The tabloids screamed bloody murder, people were Outraged, and naturally protest voters and rock fans dogpiled on the rockers - they beat the usual collection of meaningless sappiness by a wide margin. Screams of "Is this the image we want to give of our country?!" lasted for weeks.

The semifinals came, and Lordi's "Hard Rock Hallelujah" took the tacky assortment of love ballads and the viewers/voters expecting the latter by storm. Suddenly, a ray of hope! The backpedalling of the press was almost audible, and viewership of the finals - which began at 10 PM and took hours - peaked at nearly 30% of the population of 5'200'000. Against a better tacky assortment of love ballads Lordi gave the world a garish light show, pyrotechnics and smoke from every conceiveable source and singer who looked like an Uruk-Hai, like Hazelnut states, a huge decomposing one with extending pneumatic wings, a microphone in a battleax and a Finland flag hat. I can feel my heart breaking... The saints are crippled on the sinners' night... Every song is a cry for love... they stood out like another Earth in the sky wearing a bikini. The crowd went wild, Finnish commentators were reduced to tears, and since the voting was on a viewer basis of course they won.

The wretched northern regions exploded. Newfound fans streaked for the heck of it*, the President (known to be a levelheaded woman) sent the band a personal congratulation, random people in stores talked of nothing else the following day, a flying pig almost caused a collision at the Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. The tabloids found their headlines for several days, and a rumor magazine published a picture of the singer, unmasked... when the dust from that had settled they'd had to make a televised apology. The karaoke world record was broken. There now are Lordi masks for children, Lordi embroidery (luckily not a lot of that), a Lordi Square in Rovaniemi, and the Speaker of the House has just announced the minting of a commemorative coin.

So remember, and remember well: Finns are creepy.
And watch the 2007 Eurovision, since if this happens again you'll get to witness the making of new emperors.

At night they will think they have seen the sun,
when they see the half pig man:
Noise, screams, battles seen fought in the skies.
The brute beasts will be heard to speak."

-Nostradamus, 1655

Wikipedia - the Finnish one, this time.
Roman Schatz, From Finland With Love - he knows us better than we know ourselves, the foreigner bastard.
Pelit - the pig joke. I'm not funny.
Turun Sanomat
Ancestral memory

*: There weren't really that many of us, but eh.
**: Until the name "Maudling" is almost totally obscured.

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