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Friday, April 18, 2008

Eurovision Season!

posted by on April 18 at 10:00 AM

The Eurovision Song Contest is the yearly pinnacle of kitsch, camp, over-the-top acts, over-the-top heartfelt ballads, disco-ish songs, and don’t even get me started on the outfits… The only moment in the year where Europe is one. “One” in the sense that all over Europe everyone ridicules the other countries’ tastes in music. Truly the spirit of unity! And let’s be fair, in this day and age of bland English popsongs, where else are you going to hear a Croatian song about stilettos (Severina - Moja Stikla –ESC 2006)? Or a Ukranian warrior song? With whips!? (Ruslana – Wild Dances –ESC Winner 2004) Or see a dancing penguin (Sophie & Magaly: Papa Pingouin -ESC 1980)? Such cultural highlights would be lost without Eurovision!

The rules of Eurovision are simple. Every country that’s an active member of the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) can take part. You don’t necessarily have to be European, Israel’s been taking part since the 70s! Every country sends a song that’s under three minutes long, there can be no more than six people on stage, no live animals either (though cardboard cut-outs are fine (Alf Poier – “Weil der Mensch zählt” – ESC 2003), all the vocals must be sung live, since the late 90s you can choose the language you sing in (though countries like France and Spain tend to stick to their own language, well… most of the time), political messages and pornography are not allowed, and the participating country must air the complete contest (the cause for the Lebanon’s withdrawal a few years ago when they refused to air the Israeli entry).
After all the songs have been shown, every country gets to vote for their favourites (usually through televote) and awards 12, 10, 8-1 points to their top 10 songs. You’re obviously not allowed to vote for your own country. The country with the most points wins, and gets… nothing! Well, they get the honour of having won and the financial backlash of hosting the contest the next year. Who wouldn’t be up for that?!

The next couple of weeks I’ll be reviewing all the songs that are taking part in the contest in Belgrade this year. Why? Well, because someone was crazy enough to ask me. Or maybe I volunteered… I’m not quite sure anymore.
I’m from in Belgium, at the heart of Europe (or so we like to think), incidentally a country that’s been taking part since the very beginning in 1956. Without much success, but still.

Ideally, Eurovision should be watched with a bunch of friends, in a house filled with flags (you need flags to wave during the songs, there’s no other way), some alcohol, score sheets and plenty of discussion. Afterwards, when the normal folks have gone home, I tend to watch the contest again with the 2 other Eurovision freaks I know and watch the show in depth. Just try and listen to the songs when 10 people are commenting on the choreography, it’s impossible.

Eurovision night when I was a kid was invariably the same thing. My parents would watch it and remark that the festival used to be a lot better. They’d keep watching though. Year after year. When the time came for the scores, “Hello Belgrade, this is Brussels calling”, my father would complain the voting was political, usually when some Scandinavian country gave another Scandinavian country their 12 points. When The Netherlands was the only country in the whole contest to give Belgium any points, he usually called it “justified”. Of course. When the winner was announced my father stayed with his verdict that it was “all about politics” and “he’d never watch again”. Until the next year, obviously.

There’s no denying that countries don’t get points just on the merits of the song. E.g. Cyprus will generally give their 12 to Greece and vice versa. And yes, Eastern Europe seems to benefit more from this than western countries (And hey, let’s not forget ex-Yugoslavia: Honestly, first they go to war against each other, then gain independence and the first thing they do when they enter Eurovision -undeniably one of the reasons they wanted to be independent in the first place- is vote for each other.) Despite all that, neighbours voting for each other or emigrants voting for their home country hasn’t decided on a winner just yet.

This year, the contest is at a record of 43 countries taking part in two semi-finals (May 20 and 22) with 19 countries each. The top 9 (and 1 wildcard) of each semi-final will go through to the final on May 24th where they’ll join the Big Four (UK, France, Germany and Spain, the main financial contributors to the contest who automatically qualify for the final) and last year’s winner Serbia. The songs are a mix of trashy Eurobeats, ethnic ballads, weird acts and er… a turkey. Something for everyone!

To start things off, here’s last year’s winner: Marija Serifovic (Serbia) with her lesbian-styled Molitva (being honest, it’s the only believable choreography they could’ve thought up).

And to show you the other side of Eurovision: last year’s runner up: Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka- Dancing Lasha Tumbai.

I absolutely love both songs, in case you were wondering

RSS icon Comments

1

holy freaking wow! how did i ever miss seeing that ukrainian song! what a freakfest!

thanks so much griet! can't wait to see all the others!


Posted by terry miller | April 18, 2008 12:26 PM
2

Woah, Papa Pingouin is one of my earliest Eurovision memories (aged 6 1/2 or thereabouts at the time). I did a quick web search for the song, and turns out that some crowd did a techno remake in 2006, and it got to number one in France! - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Rrk7vidzw .

Is anybody hosting a eurovision party, or interested in attending one? Streaming internet seems to be finally at the stage where it's doable; and it might even be possible to combine streaming video from the Serb TV site with streaming Wogan commentary from BBC radio, and that would be just perfect.

Posted by Brendan | April 18, 2008 7:05 PM
3

Omg omg! The Stranger covering Eurovision, one of my favorite things in the entire world? I'm completely obsessed. I managed to get a friend last year obsessed too, as well as subject everyone I could to either Verka or Vampires Are Alive (the Swiss entry, which should have done much better due to its absolute hilarity) on a regular basis.

There are some good entries this year...I feel I must discuss Belgium, but I have absolutely no clue as to what's going on there. I can't get Estonia's entry out of my head and I don't know why. But Azerbaijan is my show-to-friends favorite right now.

If anyone is having a Eurovision party, I'm so in. (I've even got last year's on DVD with Wogan commentary from a friend of mine in Britain.)

Posted by Abby | April 18, 2008 8:16 PM
4

Two questions: Where can we watch this wonderous event in Seattle? And where can I get a recording of the Ukraine song? OHMYGOD!

Posted by Suz | April 18, 2008 8:20 PM
5

@4: It's streamed live online from the Eurovision website, but I've yet to be able to find it on TV at all here.

And I have a CD-single of Dancing Lasha Tumbai (with six completely unnecessary remixes!) when I was in Germany, so maybe online somewhere?

Posted by Abby | April 18, 2008 8:33 PM
6

The Eurovision Song Contest is always a hoot, but sometimes someone(s) get their big break on it.

Perhaps the most famous: Abba with "Waterloo", winners for Sweden in 1974. It was all over the radio when I was growing up in England back then.

Posted by Daniel K | April 18, 2008 9:16 PM
7

Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland) won two years ago. It, well, rocks. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5798623101377514296

Posted by mmt | April 18, 2008 9:37 PM
8

Unless I hear of someone else doing it (and I get invited), I'm planning on (attempting) to stream this year's contest to my living room. The streaming quality of last years one was pretty good. So, if anyone is interested in eurovisioning it up, drop me an email and let's see what happens. brendan underscore mckeon at hotmail.

Dancing Lasha Tumbai is also available on the CD for last year's contest (along with all the other songs, including Kate Ryan's fab "Je t'Adore", whic obviouslty didn't make it to the finals because it's actually a real pop song, and those are no longer allowed); search amazon for "Eurovision 2007".

Celine Dion is another of the Eurovision winners, who sang for Switzerland back in 1988, with a pretty decent (for Celine) pop ditty. It doesn't appear on any of her compilations...

Posted by Brendan | April 18, 2008 10:08 PM
9

One of the other highlights from last year's show was the Serebro, Russia's version of the Pussycat Dolls. They got third place with lyrics like this:




Gotta tease you nasty guy/ So take it, don't be shy/ Put your cherry on my cake
And taste my cherry pie




Brendan, I hope you're right about BBC radio. I streamed it from the Eurovision website last year and it was definitely not as fun without Terry Wogan's snarky remarks.

Posted by Ukraine was ROBBED | April 18, 2008 11:01 PM
10

Even without understanding the first song, I enjoyed it. More importantly, how interesting is it to look at beautiful women WITH hips!

Posted by Stash | April 19, 2008 2:15 AM
11

@abby: Azerbaijan is in one word: perfect! The ultime Eurovision song.
Unfortunately I read they're planning to make some changes... I hope they don't mess with it too much.

Posted by Griet | April 19, 2008 6:25 AM
12

I think The Stranger should live stream it someplace where we all can go. I'd LOVE to go to a party like that but I'm quite certain none of you want a Fnarf in your house.

Posted by Fnarf | April 19, 2008 7:43 AM
13

Klaus Nomi is alive and living as a woman in Ukraine.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | April 19, 2008 8:44 AM
14

@11: Oh no! They can't change a thing. You're right, it's perfect the way it is.

And I agree with Fnarf. Stranger Eurovision party!

Posted by Abby | April 19, 2008 11:27 AM
15

Let us not forget UK's answer to ABBA:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bKAPVpA46o

Posted by Eeep! | April 19, 2008 1:03 PM
16

My god - Nick Garrison has escaped to Kiev!

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | April 19, 2008 2:27 PM
17

It is with great ironic glee I tell you all that I will actually be IN BELGRADE for Eurovision this year (it's only 6 hours by train from my current expat home of Budapest). I'm looking forward to lots of people in silly silly costumes, and, of course, an entire weekend of complete madness.

Posted by Duna | April 20, 2008 9:26 AM
18

Molitva just changed my Sunday. Thanks.

Posted by ellenment | April 20, 2008 3:07 PM
19

HA HA! The second video is even better. I cannot wait for more!

Posted by ellenment | April 20, 2008 3:09 PM
20

WoW! Super Geek League has nothing on these guys!

Posted by Dick | April 20, 2008 7:18 PM

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