The 54th Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix took place on May 16, 2009 at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Moscow, following the victory the previous year for Russia with Dima Bilan and his song "Believe". Before the main event, there were two preliminary round a few days beforehand, following the adoption of the 2008 structure.
And it was easily the biggest, brashest, and most spectacular ESC ever. Apparently, the stage contained 30% of all LED screens in the world. Seriously. Every part of the stage was a screen. The backdrop was a series of tall, thin screens, at the top of the stage was a ring of screens that could be winched up and down accordingly - and this stage was enormous. The max-six-people-on-stage rule was held over, so entrants really had to have all six folks on there doing something or they'd just get lost in it.
As in 2008, there were two preliminary rounds in which the entrants other than the Big Four and host were split up and made to thrash it out. I watched the preliminary rounds, which were generally hilarious due to having the most annoying hosts ever. He looked like Jonathan Ross and she looked like Nicole Kidman and they were constantly clamped to each other and flirting unfunnily and making jokes about pressing "the magic button" (don't ask.) The only way they could have been more annoying was if they'd insisted on speaking in rhyming couplets, but someone already did that. The preliminaries also had some acts that didn't qualify which are worthy of note. Ireland entered someone who was basically a carbon copy of Avril Latrine, and they failed. Hungary entered a well-built chap in a tight top and even tighter trousers who jiggled about on a stage that had brightly-lit squares, like a cheesy dance floor, projected onto it, and by next weekend his song will probably find itself being played in every gay disco in Budapest. Oh, and Serbia entered a fat bloke with big hair singing a song about a shoe.
Georgia were due to enter this year, but pulled out when their song was disallowed. It was entitled "We Don't Wanna Put In" and was in breach of the no-political-lyrics rule. They'd already threatened to pull out over the conflict in South Ossetia anyhow.
Also there was a change in the voting rules! Finally, Svante Stockselius listened to me and brought back juries. Now with juries' decisions worth half and the public televote worth half, political voting was lessened - somewhat. Though it was still there, and yes, Cyprus still gave 12 points to Greece, the former Yugoslavia all voted for each other as best they could (Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia all failed, but they still gave plenty votes to Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina) and so forth. I think it's a step in the right direction, though I can't see the EBU giving up all that televote lucre in any possibly future.
British viewers, alas, had no Terry Wogan this year, he quit commentating on it after 30 years. Instead, we had Graham Norton giving commentary, and he wasn't all that bad although not as funny. Still, it could have been worse - we could have had Jonathan Ross or Russell Brand, which would have been as much good as the aforementioned unfunny upholstered twat is in the sack (according to Manuel's granddaughter, anyhow).
So, on the Saturday of the contest, I went to the house of my mother whereupon I drew up scorecards and we rated each song in four categories - song (how good it was), the singer (how talented they were), their kit (how unusual and memorable their costumes were), and the general batshit insanity of it all (self explanatory). This came to a total out of 40, which we've averaged for the purposes of this. We've not marked the semi-finalists though, and we didn't vote for anything (neither of us was willing to spend our money too much on it.)
So, well then, here we have it.
Once we'd had an opening ceremony from Cirque du Soleil which was suitably awe-inspiring, followed by a reprise of last year's winner, "Believe" by Dima Bilan, during the reprise of which he seemed to be on a conveyor belt and jumping through walls of styrofoam blocks, off we went. Each song's marked out of 40 by averaging scores given by me and my mother in song quality, singer talent, costume outrageousness, and batshit insanity, if you must know. Any mark over 20 is something we'd not be ashamed to listen to.
Artist: Sasha Son.
Comments: Do I have to? This was some get in a Pete Doherty hat plonketing away on a piano. BORE-RING.
Final Position: 23 points, 23rd place.
Artist: Noa and Mira Awad.
Song: "There Must Be Another Way"
Comments: A fluffy number featuring an Israeli Arab and an Israeli Jew singing about their longing wish for a peaceful solution to the endless conflict in Palestine. Now far be it from me to criticise this very worthy aim, but the song just doesn't stick out in one's mind. They couldn't half sing though, and the costumes had some merit, but it was rather, well, nothingy, from a musical viewpoint. I think they probably got into a place that befitted their quality of entry, to be frank.
Final Position: 53 points, 16th place.
Artist: Patricia Kaas.
Song: "Et s'il fallait le faire"
Comments: Patricia Kaas is a big star in France, however, nobody else has heard of her and this song is why. Dressed in a black dress that had one sleeve and one bare shoulder, like it had been Krugerised in the dressing room, I thought that she was going to suddenly leap into "Non, je ne regrette rien" when she traipsed up to the mic. Well, she didn't. She came up with some godawful chanson francaise number that went down far too well for its own good. The worst thing was, it did far better for France than they've done in years, which means that we've no chance of Les Fatals Picards coming back to Eurovision until, oohh, 2025 at the earliest. BORE-RING.
Final Position: 107 points, 8th place.
Artist: Malena Ernman.
Song: "La Voix"
Comments: Wearing a white dress that cost over €30,000 and which made her look like a feather duster, Malena Ernman gave us this pop opera number, during which every glass object in the house splintered. Towards the end of the song, Malena's backing dancers all pulled out half-opera masks with sparklies on them. It wasn't bad, but not something I'd listen to out of choice. Other than the operatic bits, her voice sounded all breathy.
Final Position: 33 points, 21st place.
Artist: Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea.
Song: "Lijepa Tena"
Comments: Apparently, Igor Cukrov used to be a priest, and now he's wearing boots and singing floaty folk melodies with a quintet of blondes in floaty dresses. He could sing, but there's so little to really say about the song that I honestly don't know what to put here. Although not out and out bad like the French or Lithuanian entries, it's not good either and deserved its low placing.
Final Position: 45 points, 18th place.
Song: "Todas as Ruas do Amor"
Comments: Now this was good, it had an accordion and traditional dress, both of which are musts for Eurovision. It reminded me slightly of the theme tune to The Secret of Monkey Island at times. The singer was a big girl with an even bigger flower in her hair, and there was a get in a hat beating on some drums. Unfortunately, the viewers (and the juries) weren't convinced as they contributed to Portugal's tenure as the longest continuous Eurovision entrant not to have won once. It should have done better than how it did, surely?
Final Position: 57 points, 15th place.
Song: "Is it True?"
Comments: Yes, it's true, you're a boring singer and you're peddling a boring song. Once again, it wasn't a bad song as such, just totally forgettable, and her simply standing in front of the mic caused the singer to get lost on the stage, as it was so huge. However, the Euroviewers lapped it up and it came second. I blame political voting.
Final Position: 218 points, 2nd place.
Artist: Sakis Rouvas.
Song: "This is Our Night"
Comments: It wasn't Sakis's night, though not for want of trying. Supposedly joint favourite with Norway, Greece's Sakis Rouvas, who hosted the Eurovision back in 2005, had one of the most impressive stage props of all times. Looking like a giant stapler with a Greek flag on the inside, but with a conveyor belt on the top, Sakis and some fellow well-built Greek walloper pounded out a suitable disco number making full use of this. There was jumping up and down, there was running in place, there was leaning over at strange angles... the works. And it had a well-built former gymnast with his shirt hanging partly open. Generally pretty good, I thought!
Final Position: 120 points, 7th place.
Artist: Inga and Anush.
Song: "Jan Jan"
Comments: "Traditional costumes, but only if you live in a village where Liberace's the mayor," as Graham Norton put it. The singers were two sisters who sang this folked-up dance number with lots of explosions. The costumes were epic, they were like, I don't know, gothic belly dancers or something like that. With huge sleeves. They could sing, and the song wasn't bad, but those costumes! Those costumes! Oh yeah! And the backing dancers rolling round the stage rhythmically... this shoulda done better than it did.
Final Position: 92 points, 10th place.
Artist: Anastasia Prikhodko.
Comments: I think the Russians were trying not to win for a second year running, so they entered this rather depressing number which had lots of LED screens in the background showing a computer generated image of the singer slowly ageing. Clever, but no cigar. And she was wearing a shower curtain. Also, part of the song was in Ukrainian - and the singer was Ukrainian as well. Methinks some attempted atonement for turning off the gas?
Final Position: 91 points, 11th place.
Artist: Aysel & Arash.
Comments: Second year that the Azeris have entered, and they didn't disappoint with their batshit insanity. This year, they did a Middle Eastern sounding number with a bit of a circus theme to it - they had acrobats and women in strange costumes bouncing around, not to mention pulling out a small, glittery guitar and twanging at it. Though all of this paled into insignificance next to the fact that the male singer seemed to be singing, "hobbits on my mind, hobbits in my dreams." Methinks they should lay off the strong cheese at night, hm? A very strong contender, and to be fair, I think the Azeris are going to win in the foreseeable future if the quality and manicalness of their material is anything to go by.
Final Position: 207 points, 3rd place.
Song: "Bistra Voda"
Comments: This sounded like an offcut from "Les Miserables" and had a stage show to match. The entire group were in white military greatcoats, one of the female members of which was wielding a red flag that she held up in front of a wind machine. One of the better entries, and fairly catchy, but missing something. That, and the fact that you can't really do the whole "Liberty leading the people" malarky unless your clothes are falling off and that is against Eurovision regulations.
Final Position: 106 points, 9th place.
Artist: Nelly Ciobanu.
Song: "Hora din Moldova"
Comments: A girl in a lampshade stamping around the stage to a traditional folk dance. This rules. Although it oughtn't have won, it should have done better than 14th place. It had the stomping a la Ruslana Lyzhichko, the traditional costume, all sorts. Oh. And it had someone standing around holding a mop, for no apparent reason.
Final Position: 69 points, 14th place.
Song: "What If We"
Comments: Chiara's entered for Malta twice before, and has come third and second on those occasions, however, she failed to get the brass ring this time. This was because she was another person who just parked herself in front of the microphone and sang, which meant she got lost in the enormous Olimpiyskii stage. Also, she didn't sound really on key to me, she was scratching for the high notes. And the song was a bit dull really.
Final Position: 31 points, 22nd place.
Artist: Urban Symphony.
Comments: Other than the fact that the singer of this one looked like Theda Bara, I can't remember very much about it. It evidently did well enough to get to 6th place though.
Final Position: 129 points, 6th place.
Artist: Niels Brinck.
Song: "Believe Again"
Comments: A song co-written by Ronan Keating, and sung by someone who sounded exactly like Ronan Keating. Typical boyband spinoff nonsense. BORE-RING.
Final Position: 74 points, 13th place.
Artist: Alex Swings, Oscar Sings, feat. Dita Von Teese.
Song: "Miss Kiss Kiss Bang"
Comments: This should have won. It was ace. It was a blues style number by one German with his shirt open and silver trousers singing and another German with a pony tail playing along on the piano. Meanwhile, a pair of backing dancers dressed in 1930s-style kit including what could only be described as a cross between hot pants and lederhosen cavorted behind them, and they had pyros and everything. Oh, and they had Dita von Teese on stage in a wasp-waisted corset wielding a riding crop. Yes, THAT Dita Von Teese. The song was pretty ace as well and even included some tap dancing. Unfortunately the rest of Europe didn't think so...
Final Position: 35 points, 20th place.
Song: "Dum Tek Tek"
Comments: This wasn't bad, but a bit unoriginal really. Ever since Sertab Erener won for Turkey in 2003 they've always entered belly dancers. However, one thing that sticks out is the song's title. In Turkish, it means "Boom Bang-a-Bang" (seriously, it does). Similarities to Lulu joint victory end there however.
Final Position: 177 points, 4th place.
Artist: Kejsi Tola.
Song: "Carry Me In Your Dreams"
Comments: The song was a fairly mediocre dance pop number, but where this picked up points (for us viewing, anyhow) was for the get in the blue gimp suit who writhed round behind the rather young-looking chanteuse. That, and there were two acrobats who appeared to be dressed as the Joker from Batman.
Final Position: 48 points, 17th place.
Artist: Alexander Rybak.
Comments: Though Mr Rybak had a face that was eminently smug and smackable, his song, which he wrote himself, was rather catchy. It was him singing and sawing away on a violin in between verses, however, the stage show was thoroughly ace, consisting as it did of a trio of lithe Nordic men bouncing around on their hands and feet and leaping and tostailing over each other in time to the music. To be fair, this was one of the better entries of the night and was, to my mind at least, a deserving winner. I should also point out that its score, a mammoth 387 points, was the highest ever recorded at Eurovision, surpassing 2006's record set by Lordi by almost a hundred points. Another record was the margin by which it won - 169 points, which smashed the previous record for biggest winning margin set by Katrina and the Waves in 1997. And the record for the most douze points - he raked in 16 of them, and there wasn't a single country that didn't give him at least some points. Apart from Norway, because you can't vote for yourself.
Final Position: 387 points, winner.
Artist: Svetlana Loboda.
Song: "Be My Valentine (Anti Crisis Girl)"
Comments: Ridiculous stage show, ace song, brilliant costumes, and a set that Svetlana had reportedly mortgaged her flat for. I don't know how the financial crisis has affected Eastern Europe, but there's probably a banker in Kiev who's either seeing hryvnia signs before his eyes, or utterly bricking it, depending on how things on that front are going. But anyhow. The song was a brash number involving shouting, her inside a BDSM hamster wheel while pole-dancing, or more correctly ladder dancing, dressed in a short sparkly red dress and tall sparkly boots, while a number of himbos dressed as gladiators carrying her bodily around the stage. Then, halfway through, the lights went down and we were ominously aware of the himbos dragging a full drum kit onto the stage, which she sat at and beat on for a while before belting out the song some more. Oh, those Ukrainians. What will they enter next year... death metal trannies parachuting onto the stage while playing clarinets nasally?
Final Position: 76 points, 12th place.
Song: "The Balkan Girls"
Comments: Not a bad song, just boring. Once the drumming in the intro had abated, it was another commercial R&B snoreathon. One lyric sticks to mind though as being slightly alarming - "my hips are ready to glow". I do not know what to say about this other than to make some bad pun about the sun shining out of their arse (drum fill).
Final Position: 40 points, 19th place.
Artist: Jade Ewen.
Song: "It's My Time"
Comments: Best individual singer of the night, fairly good song, and staged in such a way that she didn't get lost in the vast emptiness of the hall. However, what wasn't very British was the way in which this became our entry - Andrew Lloyd Webber canvassed the country for a number of candidate acts, and then subjected them to several rounds of phone voting. The winner was Jade Ewen, from Plaistow in London. He then pushed the song and her on a massive promotional tour of Europe and a schmooze with high-powered broadcasting executives all across the continent to try and garner votes. Evidently it worked, as it was our best performance in Eurovision since 2002 - and our best entry since 1998. Unfortunately, as I said, this merciless promotion and hob-nobbing isn't very British. That's something the Eastern Europeans do (because they see the Eurovision as a tool to get into the lucrative Western music markets). However, a very creditable performance from an ace singer. Such a pity the stage show was so uninventive. If they'd had some headbanging cellists or somehow lifted her out into the rafters on a wire, we probably would have won. Still, at least it wasn't Scooch...
Final Position: 171 points, 5th place.
Artist: Waldo's People.
Song: "Lose Control"
Comments: A dance number that was Number 1 on the Finnish charts but dead last in Europe. It had some shouty bloke over a boring beat that was only really livened up by some fire-slingers in the background. Danceable, nice, but nothing special. At least it wasn't out and out awful like certain entries I can name this year (meaning you, Lithuania).
Final Position: 22 points, last place.
Artist: Soraya Arnelas.
Song: "La Noche Es Para Mí"
Comments: Another dull dance-pop number. I can't remember much about it other than it had a few people leaping and twirling on stage as she sang. Other than that it was suitably mediocre.
Final Position: 23 points, 23rd place.
Then came the interval act, and it made me ponder the sanity of whoever devised it. Suspended from the ceiling were a number of frames with water in them and clear rubber bottoms, which slowly were lowered and sloshed from side to side over the audience. In them were a number of acrobats - and since there was no way of getting in or out of these frames without lowering them to the ground that I could see, they'd probably been up there since before the show started, poor things.. These framers were lowered towards the audience at which point one could reach up and touch, grope, fondle, whatever, the folks inside them. Seriously. Who came up with this, and what was he smoking.
Voting was next. I have already mentioned the change in the voting rules this year, yet it swiftly became clear that political voting was still extant. It also swiftly became clear that even with just six or seven countries having voted, Norway was going to sweep it. They pulled ahead so far and so fast that it swiftly became a scrap for second place. And it wasn't just because of political voting - EVERYONE was voting for Norway. This wasn't a landslide like when Katrina and the Waves or Lordi won, this was like the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. That's the magnitude of pointage that the violin-wielding Norwegian boy was pulling in.
So then, Oslo next year. And once again, I continue to maintain that there will be no Eurovision victory for the UK until we enter Lawnmower Deth.
The Diggiloo Thrush, at www.diggiloo.net
This is Sweden Calling: Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About the Eurovision Song Contest but were Laughing Too Hard to Ask, Des Mangan, 2003
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